Healthcare Big Data to Advance Precision Medicine

The $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative, a major Obama Administration health project, is an effort that uses HIT to design treatments for individual patients. Previously limited to the study of certain types of cancer, data scientists (including the one hired recently by the White House) have become interested in applying analytics to improve diagnoses, personalize treatments based on numerous factors, and possibly even find cures.

The Cloud is Critical to interoperability

Public health officials have started to realize how powerful cloud computing and big data (basically the third platform) can be in the reduction of disease.

Several health IT officials testified to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions in May 2015.

“As a result of the HITECH Act and the hard work of providers, we are bringing healthcare into the digital age and we have reached a tipping point,” said US national coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, MD. “This strong foundation of health information technology makes it possible to bring to the bedside personalized treatment through precision medicine.”

DeSalvo noted that when health researchers are able to get actual patient data from EHRs, gather metrics on them through predictive models, and blend in patient-generated health data (such as the type of treatment a patient prefers) from mobile devices, what results is a more comprehensive understanding of the particular patient’s situation. In fact, that breadth and depth of information is essential to figuring out the best healthcare approach for a particular person. Plus, you have the added benefit of patient engagement, which providers increasingly realize is critical to getting positive results.

NIH director Francis Collins, M.D., said that the PMI eventually plans to create a cohort of a million different people’s data – basically a massive, HIPAA-compliant database for study by authorized parties. These people will share their EHRs along with with genetic information, behavioral details, and health test results.

Technology is making these goals more achievable. Interoperability is actually one of the strengths of the HIPAA-compliant healthcare cloud.

The Precision Medicine Promise

California has already moved forward with a precision medicine study that incorporated the health records and saliva samples of 100,000 people, using information provided by patients of Kaiser Permanente. The University of California, San Francisco, research compared the EHRs to the genomic data gleaned from the saliva. So far, they have found genetic variants that correlate to higher likelihood of diabetes, glaucoma, prostate cancer, allergies, and other diseases.

DeSalvo said that $5 million of the $215 million Precision Medicine Initiative is set aside for her office, the ONC, to further its interoperability objectives. Privacy-focused standards will be fundamental as the PMI moves forward.

Big Data Can Drive Customized Patient Treatments

Once you get beyond the privacy and security concerns, it’s obvious that precision medicine could be a powerful force to improve our knowledge of diseases. Studies have shown that patient-generated health data, often sourced to better engage patients and for big data projects, shortens hospital stays.

Our interoperability-friendly healthcare cloud is designed to shorten your ramp-up time, increase your data-sourcing flexibility, and get your big-data projects to market faster.

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