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posted on 09 February 2018

Big Data: How It Can Improve Our Health

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance


Computers and large databases have been around for some time. But only now are we finding ways to take full advantage of it. Consider health care. Individual health records have been online for a decade (health patient portals). But their primary purpose has been to provide individuals with their health data.

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But there is money to be made: in this era of big data, industries all around the world are starting to figure out how to fully embrace it. The healthcare industry is following suit as demonstrated by the show of support for Apple's new Health Records feature.

So far, 12 major healthcare providers have pledged support to Health Records. These 12 include:

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, California
  • Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania
  • UC San Diego Health in San Diego, California
  • UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois
  • Dignity Health in Arizona, California, and Nevada
  • Ochsner Health System in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
  • MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
  • OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio
  • Cerner Healthe Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri

So why has it taken a decade to figure out how to use and profit from this data? Because it has always taken a while to figure out how to use new big data. And healthcare providers are quite confident that Apple will follow through on this.

Apple (AAPL) thought about other applications of this data. It has also launched a dedicated website for their partner healthcare providers. The website will offer these providers more information on how they can best utilize Health Records, and how they can use it to improve patient care.

Health Records will be part of the iOS 11.3 update, and it will give healthcare providers an easy and convenient means to share medical data with their patients. While this is already being done in healthcare, Health Records by Apple offers a more consumer-friendly platform that further streamlines an existing healthcare industry practice. Medical records such as allergies, clinical vitals, immunizations, medical procedures, and lab results will also be stored in Health Records. The feature is offering encryption and password protection for safety purposes. In turn, Health Records users will gain easy and immediate access to data sources, as well as to patient portals created by partner healthcare providers.

Here is how Apple's Health Records works: A patient who opts into Health Records will receive information from participating providers, who will transmit these data to their iPhone. Updates to the patient's medical records will be sent instantly, along with a notification of the update. The idea behind this feature, according to Apple, is to "make it as fast and easy to access medical data as it is financial and personal information."

The ease in which the data can be accessed and relayed between health providers and patients will be particularly useful in addressing concerns like obesity in the United States. Through Health Records, obese and overweight patients would be better monitored for medical conditions caused by excess fat and weight.

The fact that the healthcare industry has now fully embraced big data and technology is significant. This step is empowering patients to take complete ownership of their health, as they will now have quick, convenient access to their medical records.

Other applications of big data are being developed in the health sector. More and more health and life insurance providers are employing data analytics to craft fair and enticing policies for their clientele. In the insurance industry, patients are given the option to voluntarily provide information from their medical records (like, for instance, their vital statistics and family history) if they want to receive data-driven underwriting. Health IQ is a startup that uses data gathered from its own carefully designed health quiz (taken by clients on their own volition) to identify potential policy holders who deserve special considerations. These include a 4% discount to clients who pass said test, and another 4% to those who meet certain data-backed thresholds. On average, this 4% discount from Health IQ will amount to $1,238 over a 30-year policy, not counting the special lifestyle credits (given via underwriting accommodations) that a policyholder can receive. All in all, a policyholder could therefore save on average anywhere between $1,238 and $9,906 over a 30-year policy due to their healthy lifestyle choices.


Clearly, the implications of Apple introducing Health Records are wide-ranging. And Apple has the financial wherewithal to test and follow through on a wide range of health applications that should benefit patients and health care companies alike.

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