During the last State of the Union address, President Obama said that he had started a new initiative to find a cure for cancer. The initiative will be headed by the current Vice President, Joe Biden, whose son passed away in 2015 after battling brain cancer. He was 46 years old.
President Obama said his goal was to “make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.” He pointed to the advances in data and technology that can help doctors and researchers finally find a cure. In fact, many believe that finding a cure for cancer is completely dependent on big data interoperability.
Why Interoperability of Big Data Is Vital to the Cancer Cure Initiative
Interoperability is the ability of software apps and information technology systems to communicate and exchange data. The healthcare field has already started to implement the technology, and it is easy to see why it is so useful in primary care settings.
What makes it so vital to the efforts to cure cancer?
Big data allows doctors and patients to determine which medications are most effective. For instance, if someone experiences asthma symptoms, along with their doctor they can review the latest information on a variety of medications. They can find out if there is a certain medication that has fewer side effects, or one that is better for a certain age group.
It is similar to oncology data. If a cancer patient has a great experience with a new medication, they can allow their oncologist to upload that data into a big data system. Another patient across the country may have a similar type of cancer, and their doctor may recommend the same medication. The patient may be hesitant to try a new medication because not many patients have tried it. However, that patient and their doctor can seek out such information as patient feedback and results, allowing them to make a more informed decision.
Big data isn’t just about patient feedback, though. This information includes the research that is being compiled in millions of studies. Many of the studies currently being done are on diseases that are considered rare. When a doctor has immediate access to research being done in an area where one of his patients is suffering, he or she will be better able to diagnose and treat the patient.
Why Isn’t Big Data Interoperability Being Utilized More?
With all of the benefits that can be had by big data sharing, many people wonder why this isn’t being utilized more often, particularly in the field of life-threatening diseases like cancer. Basically, big data is in unchartered legal territory. Big data touches on the area of consent. Doctors need patient consent before they can proceed with discussing a patient with another practitioner. If they fail to get consent, they can be in serious legal trouble. Big data makes it extremely easy to share information. However, doctors have to stay on the ball and make sure they’ve received consent from their patients.
Another issue with big data interoperability is that doctors are hesitant to use it. When it comes to things like PALS recertification and minimal medical research, they’re okay with online information. However, there are many who prefer to do things the old-school way, which is slower and doesn’t take advantage of modern technology as much. Doctors just aren’t sure yet if they like the idea of electronic health records. The idea of an electronic model making a diagnosis naturally makes them hesitant because they feel like they have more control over their patients’ health if they make the diagnosis. Big data proponents and developers are striving to educate doctors and make applications easier to use and more transparent.
The U.S. Has a Long Road to Travel to Find a Cancer Cure
The President released a report in November 2016 from his Cancer Panel. The report stated how IT and interoperability could be “an extremely effective weapon” against cancer and other diseases. However, the U.S. healthcare system has been somewhat slow to embrace this technology, leading to fragmented research and lack of patient access to healthcare data. The result: a lack of progress.
In order for the U.S. healthcare system to really be the best in the world and treat their patients effectively – particularly cancer patients – it is vital that they get on board with the current technology. In doing so, big data interoperability will lead doctors, researchers, and patients one step closer to finally finding a cure.