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Analysis of huge data sets reshapes health care

| Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 7:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Insurers will soon reassess how they predict costs, patients will let doctors know what medications won't work with their genomes, and researchers will look at hospital records to determine the cheapest, most effective ways to treat patients — all because of developments in what is known as big data.

Driven by industry trends and the Affordable Care Act, the analysis of large sets of data, such as medication use or hospital readmissions, has enabled health care providers and policymakers to make smarter decisions and predict trends. Electronic medical records and decisions by governments and companies to share data have made for smarter decision-making that can save money and provide better care, experts say.

Often, the results are the opposite of what's expected, as was the case with a flurry of high readmission rates for diabetic patients. Everyone assumed it was an older person forgetting to take their insulin. Instead, said Arijit Sengupta, CEO of data analysis firm BeyondCore, it was young women trying to lose weight, so they skipped their insulin.

Last week, during a White House conference, two businesses, MedRed and BT Health, announced they will work together on a “health cloud” project. The cloud will include “de-identified” information — or data scrubbed of any identifying personal information — from the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the United Kingdom's National Healthcare Service.

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