Big Data

The title of the article in the WSJ was Researchers Mine Data From Clinic, Big Insurer and when I saw it I was immediately suspicious.   It started out nice enough:

The new effort, dubbed Optum Labs, will be part of UnitedHealth’s Optum health-services arm. UnitedHealth Group Chief Executive Stephen J. Hemsley said the company viewed it as a “dedicated research unit…not a profit-driven undertaking,” and the goal was to create “a neutral place to conduct research” with partners from around the health industry, with the findings to be made public. He compared it to the historic Bell Labs, where a number of important technology discoveries were made over decades.

I am not buying it.  Who cares if the information is not for profit?  Who cares if the information is made public?  It is what they do with the information that counts.  Do they cut some services?   Do they stop covering some medications?  Do they make doctors treat patients with a herd mentality?  Heck, maybe they aren’t directly selling the date just show the insurance companies how to make more profit?

Here some more highlights:

  • The initiative will focus on research into “best outcomes for patients at lower costs”.
  • Optum and Mayo said their data, analytics tools and expertise will be available to other entities such as health systems and drug companies that will work with Optum Labs on specific projects, ideally bringing their own data pools to use.
  • As hospitals buy up doctor practices to become huge, integrated systems united by electronic medical records, they are increasingly trying to marry up their clinical data with insurers’ billing records to track and manage the health of patients.
  • “The big challenge is that when data are collected for health care, it doesn’t mean they are good for research,” said Kay Dickersin, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Trials.

In my opinion, this is just a scam under the guise of research.  It may helps a small amount patients (trust me, that will be publicized) but the insurers and Big Pharma will be helped even more.  This is just another path leading to Industrialized Medicine rather than Authentic Medicine.

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