Only a few years ago Health Care practitioners would methodically write down their clinical impressions during a face to face interview with patients and then pass the chart to a waiting nurse or aide that would proceed to the next stage. The piece of paper was the final trustworthy depositary for all the clinicians’ opinions and recommendations. Then the chart would eventually be shared with other professionals, technicians, administrators, payors’ functionaries, etc., and ultimately find its home in an archive.
The advent of Electronic Record-keeping has dramatically upended that quaint era and changed all the paradigms of care delivery for all the involved parties. As most practitioners sit in front of their terminals and type along the patients’ narrative, once the face to face clinical encounters are finished and the patients leave the medical office, a torrent of medical information also rushes out of the door with them too. Then it proceeds to feed several endpoints related to consulting offices, studies’ referrals, control and audit, pharmacies’ inboxes, administrative oversight, etc.
We are living in an era when every time we click on our computers or smartphones, every time we send any messages, every time we manifest any preferences in the social media, there is a quick sharing of information that escapes our control and becomes manipulated by total strangers as we have described in a previous article. However, this technological tsunami can become very useful for the smart medical researchers who can analyze and interpret humongous amounts of data sets. Using ever changing algorithms and powerful computers, they can mine gold from it.
The classical tenets of medical research are changing dramatically as breakthroughs are achieved by biomedical researchers, mathematicians, computer programmers, statisticians and several others that contribute specific skills for the task at hand; together they can “read” from the enormous amount of data to find significant correlations between seemingly disconnected facts to swiftly inform practitioners. The biggest gains from Data Science have occurred in the field of genomics, thus enabling to tailor treatments to the patients’ unique characteristics in Oncology, Hematology, Cardiovascular diseases, Neurological diseases, Ophtalmological disorders, etc.
At present the first priority of the research community is to figure out multiple ways to share clinical, laboratory and technical data in real-time with their peers all over the country and beyond in order to use it to find innovative, revolutionary cures. The Observational Health Data Sciences Informatics program (OHDSI) has designed a data- sharing network of medical investigators of multiple institutions in twenty-five countries to study the medical records of almost 400 million (yes, million) people. The Department of Biomedical Informatics at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) has the responsibility of coordinating this research; they are already actively mining the data and producing outstanding results in racial disparities of health care access and equity, cross-national differences, hidden side effects of drugs, etc. We will discuss many of them in future installments of our next blogging season.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.