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Data quality is the key to improving healthcare

Richard Jones Archive

The healthcare industry is working to develop specific, individualized methods of treating patients with various ailments. It's slow going for many firms - the health conditions out there are seemingly infinite, and it's nearly impossible to find remedies for them all. However, according to The Boston Globe, data quality is one factor that can help the industry develop better solutions for a healthier world.

Colin Hill of Cambridge, Massachusetts is an innovator in the field. According to the Globe, Hill founded GNS Healthcare 13 years ago with the goal of improving medical care through personalized treatment. His firm is now among the world's leaders in using big data analytics to learn about patients, their diseases and the treatments that work best for them. GNS gathers data from thousands of individual patients and uses artificial intelligence to discern which approaches work best for different cases. Using Hill's technology, the firm now has a better understanding of many medical conditions ranging from cancer to diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis.

Hill says he was inspired to delve into healthcare big data by his father. Foster Hill, now 69, was once diagnosed with later-stage prostate cancer, and his doctor opted to treat him using the same approach used on every other patient with the ailment. Hill, however, had an unusual genetic variant of the cancer that didn't respond well to the hormone therapy Lupron. This is just one example of many where individualized care doesn't go far enough.

"You show up to the hospital, and it's like Groundhog Day," Colin Hill told the Globe. "It's this outdated standard of care created for this hypothetical average patient. But no one's an average patient."

Straying from the beaten path
The more data the healthcare industry is able to compile on its patients, the better equipped physicians will be to stray from a cookie-cutter approach to medicine. According to CIO, big data will help the medical field "ditch the cookbook" and move on to a more-evidence based approach.

Doctors who rely on their own personal experience can only go so far. The best approach is to gather as much information as possible on people and the medical conditions that affect them, work hard to ensure the accuracy of that data and ultimately use it to predict effective strategies for future patients. Healthcare is always presenting new challenges, but information on the past can help inform the treatments of the future.