Healthy Big Data: Putting Patients In Control


For centuries, healthcare has largely been in the hands of professionals. People get sick, they go to the doctor’s where he or she tells them what medicines to take or what type of surgery they need to have. And more often than not, patients just go along with their recommendations.

Aside from getting a second opinion – which involves making more appointments and taking time off work – patients have had little option but to go along with their doctor’s suggestions when it comes to their health.

But times are changing and decisions about our health are no longer being taken solely by our doctors. Thanks to the rise of big data and better methods of communicating, soon, patients may well start playing a much more active role in their healthcare.

See the entire Healthy Big Data Series on Pinterest and Springpad!


Crowdsourcing For A Cure

Diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of brain cancer, with doctors pessimistic about your chances of survival, most people would probably give up and make the most of what little time they had left.

But in the case of Italian robotic engineer and open-source artists Salvatore Iaconesi (pictured left), who was told that the only option was high risk brain surgery with limited chances of success, he refused to accept this prognosis, instead turning to the World Wide Web in the hope of getting some better answers.

Salvatore didn’t just go to Google and type in “brain cancer cure” or anything as simple as that. Instead (and being a robotic engineer helps), he took all of his private medical records, reformatted them, and published them online, asking for the opinions of as many experts as he could possibly find.

His website – Open Source Cure – has attracted an astonishing 200,000 responses since it went live just one month ago.

Salvatore is asking people to help him come up with a cure for his brain cancer, and by that, he doesn’t just mean a medical solution:

“Grab the information about my disease if you want and give me a cure, create a video, an artwork, a map, a text, a poem, a game, or try to find a solution for my health problem,” he writes on his site.

Open Source Cure has received such a response that now even the Italian government has noticed, and is now said to be considering ways to make it easier for others to post their medical records online, if they too want to crowdsource for a cure.

Collarboration between doctors is nothing new, but by and large, patients have always been left out of that process, something that Salvatore is helping to change. Indeed, as electronic medical records become the norm, it’s likely that more and more people will come to see crowd-sourcing as the way forward in medicine – after all, six billion heads have to be better than just one.

For Salvatore, Open Source Cure has also been a success. After discussing his options with more than 40 doctors and medical experts from around the world, he’s decided to go ahead with the surgery that was first offered to him, but thanks to the advice he’s received, doctors will use several different techniques that should give him a better prognosis.

“I’m happy that a situation that was unlucky for me has turned into an opportunity to understand how to use technology, science and human goodwill in a collaborative way,” says Salvatore.

“I would like to see it ending with me coming out of hospital with my cancer cured, but I don’t expect anything. It is just good that a large amount of people are taking into account the possibility that there are other ways to do things.”


Making Life And Death Decisions 

We’ve all seen those medical apps that allow us to monitor our weight, check our cholesterol levels and measure our body fat etc., but these tools, while useful in their own way, barely scratch the surface about what data can tell us about the human body.

Archimedes Model is an innovative healthcare company that’s starting to dig a little deeper however, and has come up with a revolutionary new application that uses big data to study thousands of different medical conditions, from heart attacks to diabetes and everything in between.

The model is able to accurately predict how diseases will affect the human body in the future, meaning that doctors can use the data to come up with possible cures for each unique case. But the Archimedes Model isn’t just for doctors – it’s also helping patients to play a much bigger role in their healthcare than ever before.

The application uses publically available data from clinics, hospitals, medical organizations and universities, then crunches this with the medical data of individual patients to come up with the clearest possible picture of their health – and how far it’s likely to deteriorate.

What’s particularly interesting is the way in which its award-winning IndiGO (Individualized Guidelines and Outcomes) point-of-care solution involves patients.

IndiGO works by analyzing a patient’s condition, then offers them a number of choices, each of which is assigned a point value. Patients, together with the doctors, can then make decisions and see how these will impact their health overall.

In an example scenario, a diabetic smoker will be given a number of options to improve their health, such as establishing a better diet, exercising more, quitting smoking or taking medication. Quitting smoking altogether would be given the highest point value – but unfortunately, it’s also the most difficult option. For this reason, patients are given alternatives, and are shown how much of an impact they (or a combination of alternatives) would have on their health, as well as any possible risks those options may have.

Essentially, IndiGO is about providing patients with more information, so they can take control and make more informed choices about their health. Here’s a short promotional video for the Archimedes Model if you wish to learn more: