Insights from BioData World Congress 2016

Last week I was pleased to join a host of partners, customers and industry experts at the leafy Genome Campus in Cambridge, UK, for this year’s BioData World Congress.

As one of the world’s leading events in genomics and big data, the two-day conference set out to explore how healthcare organizations can capitalize on the vast amounts of data available to them in an effort to advance towards precision medicine.

It’s a subject which led much of the discussion at the conference 12 months ago but, this year, conversations had noticeably matured.

Most evident was the continuing debate around data management and interpretation; the need to move beyond legacy infrastructure; and the importance of an industry-wide collaborative approach to improving patient outcomes.

The Data Challenge Continues

There was clear consensus that the challenges around data are not going to disappear. In fact, they are likely to become increasingly complex as processes such as whole-scale genomic sequencing become more of a reality.

Many speakers and panellists accepted that they were now in possession of, or had access to, a vast amount of data, and recognised this as a strength. However, they were also quick to acknowledge that they lacked the ability to process, store and interpret this data effectively, and at speed. This pointed to a bigger issue - how can we use this data to actually deliver better care, improve our understanding of patient’s needs and re-evaluate whether investment is being directed at the right treatment?

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If the ability to extract key insights from these increasingly large data sets remains a challenge, the ability to transform the level of care patients receive will stall, and in a context where bottlenecks are already testing care services, technological innovation will need to work harder to transform the healthcare provision.

Technological Infrastructure and Storage

Unsurprisingly, there was a great deal of focus on technology and the need to create a scalable IT architecture, providing the opportunity for greater transparency of information. The ability to make use of existing IT resources, and overcome the limitations of legacy architecture, were among the key issues of concern.

Rapid advances in technology were heralded as having driven a great deal of change across the industry and forcing organizations to adapt incredibly quickly. However, the volume of data currently being processed significantly outstrips the storage capabilities available. As such, the speeds by which this data can be analyzed remains slow in comparison to the amount of data stored.

Whilst issues around infrastructure were high on the agenda, attention was also paid to machine learning and AI, suggesting that future discussions around how they can be deployed to transform the way care will be delivered is set to become a hot topic over the year ahead.

Greater Collaboration and Integration is Key

Aside from the strong focus on technology infrastructure, speakers and panellists throughout the conference recognized that greater collaboration and integration across vendors, patients and partners will be crucial to overcoming future challenges.

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Clinicians need to feel empowered to make decisions quickly and effectively and shouldn’t have to suffer the burden of outdated technology or experience limitations when it comes to accessing, recording or processing patient records.

If health organizations and technology vendors can work together, the amount of variation across systems will be reduced and more time and investment can be applied to delivering better care and regular research in the future.

Overall, it’s an exciting time to see the drive of genomics in the clinic and at events like BioData World it’s great to see that, despite the challenges, everyone in healthcare - from academics to business leaders, clinicians and pharmaceuticals to patients - are coming together to write the industry’s trajectory.

To find out more about how Intel can support your organization, help you consolidate your data assets and understand which systems can help process genomic data and deliver analytic results, look out for our upcoming blog which will highlight the key findings from Michael McManus’, Senior Health & Life Sciences Solution Architect, Intel Corporation, keynote presentation on The future impact on “sequencing everyone”.

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