CITRIS Health Care Initiative Discusses Potential of Big Data

The fourth CITRIS SCHEME meeting recently took place at the UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC) in Sacramento, uniting physicians and engineers to discuss the future of medicine and information technology. “We are introducing important new concepts of data and genomics to the traditional mix of gaming, telehealth, and sensing in CITRIS healthcare,” said Steven DeMello, the Director of the CITRIS Health Care Initiative.  “These types of meetings are important to layout the next big challenges with which this initiative needs to deal.”

SCHEME 4 opened with a forward-looking welcome by Thomas Nesbitt, who discussed the need for new models of care for chronic disease. “SCHEME is the integration of health and technology to create meaningful change and advances in health,” he told an audience of more than 65. Nesbitt is a leader in telemedicine and also the Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Technologies and Alliances at UCDMC. He noted that numerous organizations, including the Veterans Administration, are using technology to drive progress as well as improve clinical outcomes, and that this is a big focus of CITRIS and others at UC Davis. In addition, the Federal Drug Administration has recently allowed remote monitoring for drug trials, using secure mobile video visits to talk to patients and allow most of the data to be collected comfortably at their homes.  “Medical devices can become like jewelry and unobtrusive, sending data to physicians.” One pressing issue that has emerged, though, is how do the physicians and informatics scientists keep up with all the data and find the relevant facts.

Dr. Heather Young noted that consumer expectations have to be carefully managed. “With CITRIS, we can bring together smart phones, games, and social networks with clinical settings,” she said. Many people use their smartphones to search for health diagnosis and treatments, and medical professionals can use this to help them manage conditions. Dr. Young is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Nursing and Dean and Professor, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, and also Chief Scientist for CITRIS Davis.

Dr. Lars Berglund, the Senior Associate Dean for Research at UC Davis, addressed the questions that arise from flood of data resulting from everyone monitoring their health stats. How do scientists preserve privacy, scale up appropriately, and ensure that everyone’s needs are met in a timely and cost-appropriate way? Two technology segments play a role in potential solutions: software and biometrics. Tools with wireless health approach may be just right, and the role of academia is to bring together diverse teams to assemble and analyze data, and then design and scale-up interventions.

Patrice Koehl, an Associate Professor at UC Davis, challenged the audience to think about how to create useful knowledge with all of the data. “How does insight result from information,” he asked. Big Data is expected to enable dreams: precision medicine, big humanities, and new discoveries. How does where we are now lead to where we want to be?