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Oncology Treatments and Care Benefit from Big Data

By Kathleen Foley/Monday, April 7, 2014

Kathleen Foley imageAn article in HealthCare IT News on March 21 discusses the latest use of IBM’s Watson computer for tackling the synthesis of complex information required to personalize cancer treatments to individual patients.   Drawing upon the medical literature, drug databases and patient genomic data, Watson will identify possible treatments for specific patients – tailored to their own genetic mutations. The application of Watson’s brain power to cull through an enormous amount of information is truly a step forward in the world of fighting cancer. The human brain can only synthesize small amounts of data at any given time, so having a computer help with the sifting and sorting is of tremendous value.

And so far, the reaction appears appropriately modest. Watson may be able to detect and identify, but Watson can’t interpret and place treatments into context the way doctors can. Watson is an aide that will hopefully free up human time for the things that human’s do best, such as interpret, understand, recommend, listen to and take into account patient emotions and family needs.

At Truven Health, our approach to big data is much the same. We use technology to simplify, organize and identify patterns of care, drivers of cost, or patient sub-groups. We draw upon many components of big data, from medical claims to hospital discharges, work productivity and oncology EMRs as well as the literature, to identify patient-level value in cancer treatments. And like our medical counterparts, we leave the heavy thinking, the place where intuition drives solutions and identifies new paths forward, to our researchers. Good technology in the hands of humans striving to treat and cure cancer is good for everyone!

Kathleen Foley
Senior Director, Strategic Consulting (Life Sciences)
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Categories: Life Sciences