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The creepiness factor in healthcare data analytics

Paddy Padmanabhan | Aug. 5, 2015
Today, we are on the cusp of unlocking the potential of data in the practice of evidence-based medicine and population health management. There are great benefits than can unfold from the use of multiple data sources, but we need to balance it with privacy concerns and unintended consequences.

So, what makes any of this creepy?
At the panel discussion, the main argument against the use of these kinds of data sources went like this:

-- If this additional information were to fall into the wrong hands (such as employers or insurance companies), that might impact the patient's job prospects, increase insurance premiums, and have other undesirable consequences.

An example of this is Silicon valley start-up 23ANDME's efforts to monetize genetic data. This has raised dark concerns about the terrifying implications of corporations gaining access to the innermost secrets of our cells that pharmaceutical marketers and insurance companies might use against the rest of us.

The main argument for including these sources of data went like this:

-- The additional data improves the analysis and benefits the patient and hospital alike and oh by the way, all this data is out there anyway, so someone has to use it.

What the debate highlighted to me was the balance between science and ethics that we need to watch out for in matters that relate to individual privacy and the need for improved healthcare.

It is pertinent to note too, that in the same debate, the panelists agreed that certain types of non-traditional medical information, such as wearables data, do have a place in healthcare analytics. With the Internet of Things (IoT) market set to explode to 1.7 Trillion by 2020, there is no way we are going to want to ignore this wealth of data for improving public health.

Society has benefited greatly from advances in medicine over the centuries. Today, we are on the cusp of unlocking the potential of data in the practice of evidence-based medicine and population health management. There are great benefits than can unfold from the use of multiple data sources, but we need to balance it with privacy concerns and unintended consequences.

 

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