Stanford Medicine Leverages Big Data to Identify Potential Health Issues

In recent years, health scientists have begun emphasizing research related to preventing illnesses and diseases before they become harmful. The Stanford University School of Medicine is a particular champion of the cause, dedicating studies to what they call precision health, or “predicting, preventing, and curing disease precisely.” In their most recent study, the group utilized “Big Data” on over a hundred patients to preemptively identify sixty-seven issues including high blood pressure, lymphoma, diabetes, infections, sleep apnea and more.

Researchers started by creating a biological baseline of participants health. Using wearable trackers, microbial and molecular profiles, blood and stool samples, and genome sequences, they determined what being “healthy” for each person meant and began tracking the metrics daily over a three to eight-year period. Like all data, the information meant little without the ability to distinguish between what was important and what was not. As they observed changes in the different variables, the group began seeing abnormalities that could be matched to potential health problems.

The genetic sequencing found thirteen disease-related concerns including heart defects, which were later confirmed with cardiac testing. One individual’s spleen was enlarged which led doctors to identify lymphoma and allowed the patient to get treatment early. Heart rate monitoring led to the discovery of sleep apnea, and elevated heart rates showed the beginnings infections. High blood pressure was found in eighteen individuals, while other irregularities indicated precancers, low hemoglobin, and arterial plaques all before the patients exhibited symptoms. 

Additionally, with all the collected information the scientists were able to make preliminary determinations on biomarkers and molecular markers for diseases and cardiovascular disease risk. With positive results, the research team is looking to continue and expand the study in the hopes of helping more people. The important lesson of Stanford’s findings, applicable to most businesses large or small, is seen in how the team converted “Big Data” into proactive data that can ultimately save lives.

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