‘Big data’ promises big yield for healthcare

The government’s “big data” initiative promises to “extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data” in healthcare and in other sectors.

White House makes good on PCAST advice

WASHINGTON – Among the projects that will benefit from the government’s new “big data” project is the National Institutes of Health’s "1000 Genomes Project Data Available on Cloud.” and also "Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering,” which the NIH is undertaking with the National Science Foundation.

Healthcare stands to yield big rewards from the $200 million initiative launched March 29 by the Obama Administration.

“If US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year,” according to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing U.S. healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent, researchers note.

The Obama Administration’s “Big Data Research and Development Initiative,” promises to “extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data,” to help address the nation’s most pressing challenges.

It’s a measure the President’s Council on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommended in a December 2010 report, calling for high-risk/high-reward research.

Top on PCAST’s list of priorities: Health information technology. PCAST called on the president to “make possible comprehensive lifelong multi-source health records for individuals; enable both professionals and the public to obtain and act on health knowledge from diverse and varied sources as part of an interoperable health IT ecosystem; and provide appropriate information, tools, and assistive technologies that empower individuals to take charge of their own health and healthcare to reduce its cost.

The advisory group called for going “well beyond the current national program to adopt electronic health records.”

“In the same way that past federal investments in information technology R&D led to dramatic advances in supercomputing and the creation of the Internet, the initiative we are launching today promises to transform our ability to use big data for scientific discovery, environmental and biomedical research, education and national security,” said John P. Holdren, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Six federal departments and agencies announced more than $200 million in new commitments that, together, promise to improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data, officials said.

The initiative aims to:

• Advance state-of-the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze and share huge quantities of data.