Today I presented at BioData World 2015 at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, near Cambridge, UK, on the topic of ‘Advancing the Data Science of Precision Medicine’, so I wanted to be able to share some of my thoughts for those who were unable to attend this fantastic event.
The Unique Challenges of Clinical, Behavioral and Genomic Data
As Chief Data Scientist for Big Data Solutions at Intel I’m really pleased to be able to share how I think big data can really help to advance healthcare and life sciences. The first question I’m often asked is: ‘What’s the big data challenge in healthcare?’ In simple terms we need to do a better job of acquiring, ordering, analyzing and then utilizing all of the myriad of data types generated across the healthcare ecosystem. On the face of it this is technically very challenging. I like to think of the different types of data making up what we call the ‘True State of the Patient’, a computable model of the patient for optimizing care delivery, outcomes and revenue. Think clinical data, behavioral data and genomic data, all of which have with their own unique challenges when it comes to making meaningful sense of them.
Closing the gaps around Clinical Data
Most clinical data sits in Electronic Health Records (EHR) where it’s often assumed that the data is neatly structured and can be analyzed with ease. For the majority of providers that’s not the case just yet. Some of the most important data is sitting in free-form text written by clinicians or in annotated images of scans. There are some great advances being made around Natural Language Processing (NLP) which will help us to make sense of this unstructured data and begin to unlock the value of every EHR.
Plugging Wearables into the Matrix
Wearable technology is mainstream today, devices are affordable, easy to use and capturing increasingly accurate types of data. The challenges for wider adoption by the healthcare ecosystem remain around confidence, from both patient and provider. How can a clinician be sure that data has been accurately recorded? Do patients have the know-how to interpret the data recorded and self-confidence to present this to a medical professional? Integrating data from wearables (and sensing technology already used by providers) is critically important to achieving that 360-degree view of the patient.
Providing the Platform to bring Lifesaving Discoveries
It’s exciting to see how organizations are overcoming the technical challenges posed by the enormous volumes of data surfaced when analyzing the genome at BioData World this week. Supporting the life sciences through our Big Data Solutions here at Intel means that providers will be able to combine clinical data, behavioral data and genomic data much sooner that we could have imagined even just 5 years ago. For example, take a look at the work we are doing with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) on the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, a precision medicine analytics platform that allows hospitals and research institutions to securely share patient genomic, imaging, and clinical data for potentially lifesaving discoveries.
The True State of the Patient is an achievable framework for healthcare across the world. It requires change to workflows, technologies and perhaps new ways of thinking. Conversation at BioData World gives me the confidence that we are on the right path, and we’re heading down that right path at an ever-increasing speed. If you consider the last 5 years to have been an exciting ride then hold tight as the next 5 years are going to bring much more.