For Better or Worse, Ontario Projects Show What’s Possible with Big Data and Integration

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    Top Five Reasons Big Data Is Advancing Personalized Medicine

    A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal article shows how data specialists in Ontario are using integration and analytics to reinvent health systems.

    Data-integration innovations are refashioning the health systems from supporting acute care to “total patient data capture,” according to the article.

    I’ll say this much for it: It’s stunning in scope. These health care data projects are pushing beyond integrating health care data to create the revolutionary, 360-degree vision of people that makes marketing leaders salivate.

    But it’s also the kind of thing that makes privacy advocates cringe and sends even reasonable U.S. citizens running for the hills.

    Among the data sets being added are demographic data and information from social services agencies, including:

    • Social circumstances
    • Housing
    • Food
    • Income Security

    All of which seems smart when you think about providing comprehensive health care, but horrifying when you think about how intrusive it is.

    Then there’s this:

    “Meanwhile, as part of a study of 225 000 people, the province is developing databanks of biological specimens from individuals that can be used to track long-term health outcomes by linking genetic and blood profiles with long run health care events.”

    Come again?

    It’s easy to see how this data could be relevant to health care. After all, the poor have higher levels of lead poisoning than the wealthy, due in part to housing differences. As Wendy Gerrie, director of Ontario’s Integrated Decision Support Services at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre explains in the piece, housing can be relevant to health care.

    And so can genetics and blood profiles, of course.

    Then again, what isn’t relative to health care? Genetics? TV habits? Those not-so-nice secrets on your browser history?

    It’s all about giving health care providers a complete picture of what Jeannette Munshaw, director of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Health Data Branch, calls “patients’ end-to-end journeys.”

    That’s nice in theory, but for my part, I’d prefer a bit of privacy on at least one end.

    Still, Ontario’s health care projects are a testament to what Big Data, coupled with data integration, can do, making it a must read for anyone involved in health care or data.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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