Big data not a 'magic weapon' for healthcare

Earlier this week, Google founder Larry Page touted the impacts of big data, saying that more information transparency could save 100,000 lives this year alone.

However, big data isn't a "magic weapon that can solve all our problems," Eerke Boiten, a senior lecturer at the School of Computing and Director of Interdisciplinary Cyber Security Centre at University of Kent, writes in an article at The Conversation.

Boiten points to the UK's debacle--a program announced through a leaflet left in mailboxes by the National Health Service on an effort to make health records available to researchers--and Page's comments as false visions for big data. He says that no case review has shown that large data collection would "get the right knowledge to the right person."

And when it comes to big data, the healthcare industry still has a long way to go. Big data's use won't reduce costs or improve care until challenges around standards and methods are overcome, according to a recent report from the national health policy institute Network for Excellence in Health Innovation.

And even if those standards and methods are addressed, Google itself has shown that big data might not always be the most reliable way to go.

In 2013, the technology giant attempted to use its Google Flu Trends to track the disease by gathering search engine data for key terms. However, Google's analysis dramatically overestimated peak flu levels--its estimate for the Christmas time of national peak of flu was almost double the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate.

The program couldn't replace traditional methods, despite its quick feedback system, FierceHealthIT reported.

At the same time, collection of data is here to stay--and will only increase as technological advances make it easier to analyze and share information.

However, that doesn't mean big data can replace the advantages of human interaction. As Boiten says: Data won't save lives alone.

To learn more:
- read Larry Page's comments
- read Boiten's article