The Truven Health Blog

The latest healthcare topics from a trusted, proven, and unbiased source.

 

Oncology Treatments and Care Benefit from Big Data

By Truven Staff
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)

Using Big Data in the Best Interest of the Patient

By Truven Staff
Kathleen Foley imageThe recent USA Today article, ‘Analysis of huge data sets will reshape health care’ highlighted many of the ways in which ‘big data’ are being used to improve healthcare in the United States. The linkage of data across hospitals, insurance claims, electronic medical record systems, and genomics databases are helping to identify more efficient treatments and high-cost patients, and determine best practices for treating patients with particular conditions.

Despite these benefits and many others, the creation of ‘big data’ assets is fraught with difficulties that may be limiting the true potential of existing data. In addition to privacy concerns and constraints which limit what types of data can be linked and by whom, there are issues around ownership and access to big data. Who should pay for the creation of these large data assets, and once created, who should have access? The answers are not straightforward and require the development of trust and a shared vision across many stakeholders.

Truven Health is actively involved in the development of data infrastructures to both create big data and facilitate analyses while guiding appropriate interpretation. One of the first areas of focus is the creation of cancer data assets. To facilitate research that will truly answer important questions for patients, providers, and payers, we are exploring all avenues for linking various data from claims data to EMRs to cancer registries. Only by combining data sources can we finally begin to address questions that will get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. It isn’t just about generating big data, it’s also about knowing how to use it to generate knowledge that is a game changer.

Kathleen Foley
Senior Director, Strategic Consulting (Life Sciences)

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