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Stanford Medicine conference provided a big look at big data

Big Data 2016 presenterBig data was a hot topic here last week, when Stanford Medicine hosted the 4th annual Big Data in Biomedicine Conference. There was a lot to discuss, with panels on genomics, population health, and digital health (among others), and several big announcements, including NIH's funding of the world's largest biobank, to be used as part of the federal Precision Medicine Initiative.

My colleague Jennie Duscheck was among the approximate 500 attendees who gathered to hear the latest on how large-scale data analysis and technology can improve human health. From her piece:

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, opened this year's conference -- titled "Enabling Precision Health" -- by noting that, "Without big data, there is no precision health. Data makes possible everything that precision health promises -- true patient-centered care based upon prediction and prevention rather than relying exclusively on diagnosis and treatment."


Now that the era of big data has arrived, breaking down barriers and looking for ways to exploit the rich interactions at the boundaries between different kinds of data -- such as the particular mix of bacteria in the gut and the self-reported status of a person's health and mood -- is attracting attention. "Innovation," said Claudia Williams, MS, senior advisor for health technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "often comes at edges."

That can include policy changes such as tax credits for people who donate their data or finding ways to allow patients themselves to generate innovations. Williams talked extensively about making patients partners in research; for example, she talked about a parent who tracked her child's symptoms over time, noting which antibiotics had what effects on which symptoms. Such a parent might work well with a physician willing to look at that information and add other data from the child's medical records into the mix.

Indeed, patients and data owners were repeatedly discussed during the two-day event, with Euan Ashley, MD, faculty lead of the Biomedical Data Science Initiative, reminding attendees at the close of the conference of the importance of putting "the data in the hands of the person who owns it."

Previously: Stanford's Big Data in Biomedicine Conference begins todayAt Medicine X, talking about owning one's data and about patient-tailored health care and At Big Data in Biomedicine, Stanford's Lloyd Minor focuses on precision health
Photo of Claudia Williams by Saul Bromberger

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