NEW ORLEANS – Collecting and analyzing health data is one thing, but researchers at Washington State University are examining the ethical questions surrounding Big Data—who owns it and how it is distributed.
Shandeigh Berry, a nursing PhD student at Washington State University, is working with a research team, led by Dr. Shelly Fritz, Dr. Diane Cook and Dr. Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe, on a “clinician-in-the-loop” project that leverages Big Data to predict changes in a person’s health and possibly intervene.
“If we can understand changes in health states, then we can proactively intervene rather than reactively,” Berry said.
The complexities of leveraging Big Data, however, include issues of invasiveness, ownership, distribution and informed consent.
The ownership issue can be complex because cloud service providers, health care organizations, researchers, participants and patients are all claiming the data, which can be mined from sources like social media, online purchases, insurance claims, clinical data and public health records, in addition to sensors, wearable devices and more.
The WSU researchers are tackling these issues as they gather data from a health-assistive smart home they have developed that is equipped with motion and infrared sensors to monitor seniors as they age in place. The project uses artificial intelligence to interpret changes in the health of the seniors and hopefully pick up warning signs of a serious illness or adverse health episode at an early enough stage that treatment would be simpler and less expensive than if it had been detected later.
Big Data, which refers to the intersection of the amount of data being collected through health devices and platforms and the ability to use technology to analyze and understand it, could be used in the future for behavior profiling and biomedical research, diagnosis and treatment decisions, disease surveillance and prevention, and treatment decision-making, said Berry.
“With so much data being collected every day, these issues become incredibly complicated and important, she said.