Mount Sinai hires Facebook whiz to crunch big data

Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York is employing Facebook's first data scientist to spearhead data-crunching techniques he once used to target online advertisements for predictive healthcare.

Jeff Hammerbacher, a 30-year-old data scientist, is leading design of the hospital's new computing cluster, which costs more than $3 million. Hammerbacher, according to an article published in Technology Review, is using those data-crunching techniques for a "powerful engine that will suck in medical information and spit out predictions that could cut the cost of healthcare."

"We're going out on a limb--we're saying this can deliver value to the hospital," Hammerbacher told Technology Review.

Hiring Hammerbacher is just another way Mount Sinai is running their hospital "like an information business," according to the article. The facility just completed installation of a $120 million electronic health record system, and has assembled a biobank of close to 27,000 patient DNA and plasma samples. It's all part of a "monstrously large bet that data is going to matter," Eric Schadt, a computational biologist who runs the hospital's genomics and biology institute, told Technology Review.

Earlier this month, an article published in Health Affairs outlined how technology that not only aggregates a person's health data, but adds in publicly available information about where patients live, can help healthcare organizations achieve the Triple Aim of improving the care experience, improving care and cutting costs. The article describes the geographic health information system used at the Duke University Health System, which combines not only 16 years' worth of health data on patients--it's the predominant provider in its county--but birth and death records, U.S. census demographic data, county tax-parcel data, crime and housing statistics, environmental data and more.

A report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., has projected that data analytics could help U.S. citizens save as much as $450 billion in healthcare costs.

To learn more:
- read the Technology Review article

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