Dec 14, 2015
Big data is revolutionizing how medicine and disease treatment will be delivered in the next several decades.
In a recent interview, Dr Eric Schadt, the founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System told McKinsey big data’s role in medicine is one where we can build better health profiles and better predictive models around individual patients so that we can better diagnose and treat disease.
“One of the main limitations with medicine today and in the pharmaceutical industry is our understanding of the biology of disease.”
Aggregating more information
Schadt said big-data is able to aggregate more information around multiple scales for what constitutes a disease—from the DNA, proteins, and metabolites to cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and ecosystems.
The medical industry needs to be modelling those biology scales by integrating big data and the models they build will eventually will be more predictive of a person’s health and well-being.
Wearables transforming medicine
Wearable devices such as mobile health apps represent the future not only for researching diseases, but also for application of medicines.
“…. today in medicine, a normal individual who is generally healthy spends maybe ten minutes in front of a physician every year.”
As a result, physicians only have minimal data to assess a person’s health.
Wearable devices, Schadt said longitudinally monitor patients’ health in many different dimensions and provides a much better and more accurate profile that may better predict diseases.
Today’s primarily recreational grade wearable devices are fast evolving into clinical grade instruments that connect directly with healthcare providers.
Merging big data with the new improved devices will optimizing their efficacy.
Patients, payers and pharma
In the future, Schadt said patients will be engaged as partners with the medical industry in a mode of understanding health and wellness and will lead to better medical decisions.
Moreover, because most data collection will be passive, individuals won’t have to be active every day but will be continuously participating because of perceived benefits.
Doctor’s visits will ultimately be diminished and fewer people will progress into advanced disease environments because preventative measures can be continuously implemented earlier.
Most importantly, patients will better understand their doctors’ therapies, because they will have continuous access to their own data and will be an integral part of the whole health-care process.
Better understanding of elderly diseases
Big data will also lead to better understanding of Alzheiner’s and other diseases that affect the elderly.
The medical industry will be able to intervene before patients slide into disease states and will reduce long-term care costs through better preventative measures, targeted therapies, and increased compliance for medication usage.
These earlier interventions will ultimately address today’s major health industry concern: rising industry costs will be reduced by lower- preventive medical-costs and many high-costs acute disease therapies will be eliminated.
Generating genomic information
Lower-cost patient genomic information generated by using big-data based research is another area that will have major medical implications.
Diseases such as inheritable cancer risks can be monitored and detected earlier.
“…. you don’t need to wait until a lump is felt or the person’s at a later stage of cancer, when it’s much more expensive.”
The big data enhanced genomic risk profiles, he said will incentivize the public to be continuously involved in their own long term health and well-being.
Ultimately, big data will help wearable device makers develop new clinical devices that will assist the health care industry and the general public improve long-term medical benefits.