Are we ready for the data explosion in health care?

Most of our health care teams in developed countries now have “electronic health records”. But are we ready to have all this data shared? That’s the question asked by Michael W. Painter of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who has just released the Foundation’s Data for Health Advisory Committee report.

We already have enormous amounts of data about almost every aspect of our lives, but we’re really just at the beginning. We’re also on a Moore’s Law escalation adventure with it. The sheer amount of data is increasing rapidly, probably exponentially, as computing power increases and our devices grow smaller and more ever-present in our lives. We’ll soon be carrying, wearing, driving, living with and implanting more and more powerful computers that will help us in unimaginable ways—assuming we can get to the data, turn it into useful information and then be able to act on it to improve our health and our lives.

But it seems many people are only too happy to embrace the new technologies to track their health, as Susannah Fox reports.

One indication of people’s enthusiasm for health data was revealed when, in the first five days after Apple announced its new ResearchKit initiative, an opensource software framework that matches researchers to personal health data through apps, over 41,000 people registered to be part of the first five studies, which cover asthma, diabetes, breast cancer, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Prior to that, researchers had only been able to recruit a few hundred participants for each study.

You can watch the release of the Foundation’s advisers’ report, “Data for Health: Learning What Works” here.


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