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Viewpoint |

Finding the Missing Link for Big Biomedical Data

Griffin M. Weber, MD, PhD1,2; Kenneth D. Mandl, MD, MPH1,3; Isaac S. Kohane, MD, PhD1,3
[+] Author Affiliations
1Center for Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
2Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
3Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;311(24):2479-2480. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4228.
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It has been argued that big data will enable efficiencies and accountability in health care.1,2 However, to date, other industries have been far more successful at obtaining value from large-scale integration and analysis of heterogeneous data sources. What these industries have figured out is that big data becomes transformative when disparate data sets can be linked at the individual person level. In contrast, big biomedical data are scattered across institutions and intentionally isolated to protect patient privacy. Both technical and social challenges to linking these data must be addressed before big biomedical data can have their full influence on health care. It is this linkage challenge that we address in this Viewpoint.

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Figure.
The Tapestry of Potentially High-Value Information Sources That May be Linked to an Individual for Use in Health Care

CPT indicates current procedural terminology; ECG, electrocardiography; EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency; GIS, geographic information systems; GPS, global positioning system; HL7, Health Level 7 coding standard; ICD-9, Institutional Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision; LOINC, Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes; NDC, National Drug Code; OTC, over-the-counter; SNOMED, Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine; SNP, single-nucleotide polymorphism.

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