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Big data makes a difference at Penn Medicine

Ken Terry | Oct. 9, 2015
Here’s how one healthcare organization is making use of the massive amount of information – measurable in petabytes – it now has at its disposal to save lives.

For example, he notes, most cases of hypertension are defined as a single disease. "So we put them all in one basket and treat them the same way. With these tools, we'll be able to refine their phenotype and their genotype and better treat these individuals. Right now, it's mostly trial and error." 

Hanson leavens the great expectations of big data with a few sober reflections. First, he notes, it will be some time before most providers are ready to pull in remote monitoring data, because it has to be prescreened to be usable in patient care. Second, while precision medicine is a great idea, most people haven't yet been sequenced, and "we don't have a consistent way of interpreting their genotypic data and making it actionable."

While oncologists are increasingly using information about the differences among individual cancer patients, it will be a while, Hanson says, before this approach filters down to primary care physicians. However, precision medicine research is moving fast at Penn Medicine and other leading academic medical centers. "We're on the verge of an explosive development," he says.


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