Skip to main content

Big data can add quantitative side to medicine

Richard Jones Archive

Mining big data can have a tremendous effect in every field, especially medicine, in which access to more information is helping people live longer, healthier and happier lives. According to The New York Times, researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan are working to add more of a quantitative side to medicine, giving doctors better resources for crunching numbers that will help them make decisions about their patients.

Data collected by medical researchers includes a healthy mix of old data and new material collected from novel channels such as social media. Web browsing habits, GPS location data and information found on mobile devices is all being included. Eric Schadt, a leading researcher in genomics and biomathematics at the school, says that more data can lead to more precise calculations about each patient.

"We're trying to move medicine in the direction of climatology and physics, disciplines that are far more advanced and mature quantitatively," Schadt told the Times.

Schadt explained that medical researchers can develop clearer pictures of patients by examining data points including weight, age, gender and historical information such as tobacco use and exposure to toxins. All of this knowledge can contribute to building more sophisticated models.

According to The Boston Globe, the goal of the medical data movement is to deliver personalized care to each patient who needs it. Health sciences are no longer a matter of formulating generalized rules for treating all patients - instead, doctors can formulate specific plans of attack with each individual, considering salient information on his or her medical history in real time.

Data quality is an important part of this process. Before doctors can take action based on the information they have, they must verify that it's accurate, and software solutions can help them make key determinations about their medical knowledge.