Big Data in Medicine and Lifestyle

By Julia Meisterknecht, Paul Schumacher, Amalien Meyer, and Veronica Loskutova


  • Healthcare is very costly; using big data can reduce costs
  • Standard practice in healthcare is moving away from the subjective (individual doctor assessments) to the objective and measurable (data collected)
  • Incentives are growing for healthcare practitioners to use EHR (electronic health records)
  • New technologies are rapidly developing (e.g., sensors); human knowledge is also increasing over time
  • Data collection, especially genomic data, is becoming cheaper and cheaper


Goals of big data use:

  • Take advantage of data to improve patient outcomes (right intervention at the right time to the right people)
  • Lower costs
  • Achieve more personalized care
  • Integrate all aspects of the healthcare system

Overall goal: Can we use data about the past to enhance the future?


STARTUPS: In the last few years, people have tried to advance the process of big data usage in healthcare by themselves. Startup companies were founded to measure, control and even increase the performance of the human body (big data + community = artificial intelligence):

CROWD SOLUTIONS: “Using the crowd as a doctor”

Due to decreasing confidence in professional medical employees and increasing social media use people can share their personal experiences in medical treatment or hospitals and even provide their own diagnoses of people’s diseases.


  • Diversity and variety of data sources: genomic data, clinical data, behavior data
  • Unstructured data:  e.g.  Notes about patient or diaries are not in the same style:
    combining data from different patients is not possible even if they have the same meaning
  • Efficient analyzation of large volumes of raw data
    –> Lack of knowledge
  • Complexity of analyzing genomic data with sophisticated computation and combining them with clinical data
  • Capturing changes of patients behavior and conditions in different environments e.g. home or hospital



  • Possible breach of personal data (hacking or misuse)
  • “Gray area” of patient confidentiality
  • Individual Risk Score in health insurance will have more information about their members
  • Possible patient discrimination for insurance (insurance companies might not cover you due to liability)
  • Strangers might be able to track your whereabouts using your health sensor


Post your opinion!


4 thoughts on “Big Data in Medicine and Lifestyle

  1. I would probably recommend either not to use these devices or to remove/destroy all hardware enabling the device to interact using wireless networking. And no, turning these capabilities off using Software is probably not sufficient (for instance it is possible to turn on powered off mobile phones, which is probably still harder then simply breaking a temporary airgap). A reference for this claim is for instance or
    And if turned on you are most likely risking other people being capable of accessing your data or even betting an opportunity to break into the device itself, a claim being backed up by the comparison to the simplicity of breaking into haelthcare devices in general (see


  2. In line with the previous comment, yes I agree that security has to evolve at the same pace or even at a faster pace than IOT devices and big data analysis, but at the same time we can’t use this argument as the basis of stopping innovation, the same way that maybe the first cars didn’t have doors that could be locked, but that didn’t mean people didn’t build cars at all. There has to be a balance between caution and risk-taking in any innovative process.


    1. While this is obviously an true statement, in a increasingly complex world, the balance should be tending (in my opinion) more towards security, as the potential consequences of failure are increasing greatly. On the other hand there are usually some relatively simple and effective steps that can be taken to increase the security of these devices, especially disconnecting them from any kind of wireless networking.
      One good way to deal with this problem, is to try to split complex system into smaller isolated subsystems which can still be controlled in terms of complexity and to try to reduce the amount of potential dangerous input into the systems that have to remain complex and vulnerable. So you cold either use extremely simple devices connected to the internet (but most devices actually capable of using it are generally speaking already quite complex) or to use airgapped systems. Also you could devide your systems into hardware separated (or strongly visualized) subsystems which fulfill these requirements and which interact only in a very limited way.
      However, looking at most today’s “innovations” I don’t see a tendency of produces even trying to improve their effords in actually applying these general principles.
      I guess the main reason for this is that most consumers don’t really care about the future consequences of their actions they don’t fully understand without doing research, so the producers of these tools don’t really have a reason to even try to start to make them as secure as possible.
      So, even if you should actually believe that the world really needs these “innovations” and that this is generally worth the mentioned risks you might feel tempted to increase the pressure on the producers by not using products of questionable security and demanding technical information and review of potentially security (and thus also privacy) implications.

      In any case, I currently don’t see a big advantage in the networking features of these tools, so it is probably a reasonable step to destroy these capabilities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s