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Digital Transformation in Health Care – VI

Ever thought of our body as a data generator? Multiply that with the number of people and you are right into the Big Data domain… Infographic credit: NetApp

I started this series of posts on the Digital Transformation of Health Care pointing out at the three looming disruptions ahead: de-localisation, personalisation and digitalisation. These correspond, broadly speaking to the area of Digital Health, Precision Health and Big Data, even though these areas are connected with one another as shown in the circle diagram and the disruptions are also somewhat connected.

In the previous posts I discussed Digital Health and Precision Health. Now it is time to close the circle and consider the Big Data part.

Remember that the definition of Big Data is something complying with the 3 V: Volume, Velocity and Variety. Someone claims that Bg Data have to comply to 5V to be of interest: add to the previous 3 Veracity and Value. Well, in Health Care all those V are more than satisfied.

As shown in the infographic our body is a tremendous data generator. There are some 2 billion bits equivalent flowing through our senses every single second. Now we have sensors (and there will be many more and more importantly they will be seamless) that can pick up what is going on in our body. Smart watches, the smartphone, smart bands, video cameras in our home and, coming up, electronic tattoos and embedded sensors.

Any diagnostic procedure generates data (a normal x-Ray is about 30MB, a MRI goes up to 150MB, the genome sequencing requires a few GB once normalised). A single person can well generate in the coming decades 1 TB of health care data every year. Now multiply this for the million of people living in a certain area and you are in the Exabyte range.

In terms of velocity the real time monitoring provides continuous changes in part of those data and in terms of variety there are clearly several different streams of data to be considered. The Veracity (the importance to trust the data) is obvious as it is obvious the Value of these data.

In the coming decades we will learn to make sense from more and more streams of data (like analysing voice to detect issues at neurological level) and we will need artificial intelligence to sort out data and make sense out of them. The whole set of data (both the mirroring of the present status and the historical data) will become part of the digital twin of the person, each of us will have his won digital twin.

The cyberspace will be populated by our digital twins and they will be participating to the cyber health care program where agents will be looking for signs of epidemics, evaluate the effects of cure and detect any undesired side effect. Other agents will correlate environmental situations with the impact on people health. Having the possibility to evaluate basically in real time the overall health and well being as an integration of the single individuals health and well being will provide amazing possibility for proactive actions both on the single individual and on the environment. It will be like performing a continuous never ending clinical trial worldwide.

The benefits to each of us will be enormous. These huge data fabric mirroring the health status of the world will also be an amazing springboard for business, for enterprises able to leverage on that knowledge to create further knowledge and to deliver service to improve general health (by acting in the environment, habits -like diet) and the health of each and everyone.

At the same time there are concerns emerging from the availability of these data, privacy issues as well as concern of malicious use of those data that might even result in fatalities.
It is a new world made possible by technology evolution, a world that we still have to understand and control.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.