Big Data at the Hospital

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This Wall Street Journal story caught my attention because it is capturing many of the trends in my industry.  The growth of data, cost control, and population health are all featured in this quest to use data science in health care.

The article implies that using data science may bring down some of the walls of specialization that can sometimes create communication backlogs between patients and providers.  

Of course specialization creates value.  But as health systems grow into ever more detailed specialties, it becomes difficult to communicate results between areas.  Data can help point out connections between symptoms that are usually handled by other medical specialties.  

What previously may have been just a coincidence involving a few isolated patients can now be spotted as a medical trend.  In other words, data can provide information that can scale.

This leads into the new emphasis on population health, which focuses on engaging the community in preventive health and lifestyle measures.  This may keep people away from costly emergency room visits, but we will always have a “tail” of patients with serious problems and hard-to-diagnose problems.  

While inferential data statistics can do a lot of good, we should not forget what happened to our financial models during the economic meltdown.  Would we want to apply the same blind reliance on data to our health?

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