I’ve been thinking a lot about “big data” and how it is going to affect the practice of medicine. It’s not really my area of expertise– but here are a few thoughts on the tricky intersection of data mining and medicine.
First, some background: these days it’s rare to find companies that don’t use data-mining and predictive models to make business decisions. For example, financial firms regularly use analytic models to figure out if an applicant for credit will default; health insurance firms can predict downstream medical utilization based on historic healthcare visits; and the IRS can spot tax fraud by looking for fraudulent patterns in tax returns. The predictive analytic vendors are seeing an explosion of growth: Forbes recently noted that big data hardware/software and services will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30% through 2018.
Big data isn’t rocket surgery. The key to each of these models is pattern recognition: correlating a particular variable with another and linking variables to a future result. More and better data typically leads to better predictions.
It seems that the unstated, and implicit belief in the world of big data is that when you add more variables and get deeper into the weeds, interpretation improves and the prediction become more accurate.Continue reading…