How Medicine Makes Sense of Big Data

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

Big data for Medical

Big data is a game-changer for medical research. The ability to analyze vast sets of information, thanks to bigger and faster computers, is helping researchers to understand diseases, tease out genetic factors and spot patterns.

More researchers are looking at big data and understanding how we can utilize [it] in a better manner,” says Ervin Sejdic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, U.S., and founder of its Innovative Medical Engineering Developments lab.

In the past, clinicians would get data from patients and hold it up to metrics to try to see something by looking among different patient groups. “What they’re doing is flushing out the details. But the devil lies in the details,” Dr. Sejdic says. “The details are where we start understanding things. What’s really shifting in medicine is the fact that, yes, there is data, but let’s look at whole data sets.”

At the same time, better and smaller electronics, from smartphones to sensors you can wear, can compile more information at a detailed level and over bigger populations. “Researchers are looking at the interactions between different physiological systems. Sometimes these interactions break down in people with various diseases. Sometimes you have to look at the level of a minute, or an hour, or a day,” Dr. Sejdic says. “What big data is going to enable us to do is finally look at a human system as a system, rather than as individual components put together.”

Big data also is helping doctors and researchers to view diseases in shades of gray, rather than with a purely black-and-white outlook.

In the past, diseases were viewed in a simplistic way: a person is healthy or a person has disease. We would get specific information about the two states and compare the difference,” says Sergei Krivov, research fellow at the University of Leeds, U.K., who recently published research on the monitoring of kidney-transplant patients using big data techniques.

With transplants, he says, “There are two outcomes: perfect or problems. We are trying to find a single parameter to describe where you are between these two stages and what is the prognosis.” Based on the indicator, doctors can decide at an earlier stage whether to intervene into the process.

What I would like to see in the future is the following picture,” Dr. Krivov says. “A sizable part of the population frequently gives blood for analysis, for example during regular visits to their doctors. This would go to a data center. Based on this data for five or 10 years, we could determine indicators describing the degree of progression or the likelihood to occur for different diseases. We will give back this information as numbers, which is easy to interpret. This, in turn, will encourage patients to participate.”

One indicator patients might get with this approach is their biological age. “So you’re 30 years old, but your biological age is 20—or 40,” Dr. Krivov says. “Changes in your diet, exercise or lifestyle affect biological age. You might get younger, biologically. That would be reinforcement to the patient that he or she is doing well.”

DNA moleculeSome recent uses of big data include predicting the future of metabolic syndrome, advancing neuroscience, identifying dangerous pathogens, and conducting cancer research, among many others. DNA sequencing is getting cheaper thanks to big data, and genetic sequencing with big data is becoming a key part of epidemiology, because it helps trace chains of infection. Big data is helping researchers not only to understand the different genetic mutations in cancer, but also to personalize medicine: different mutations respond differently to treatments, and getting the right treatment straight away spares patients from side effects of treatments that aren’t effective for their particular kind of cancer.

However, challenges remain for big data to reach its full potential of analyzing many kinds of information from many patients. With computers, it’s “garbage in, garbage out,” so data needs to be structured to ensure consistency. Information often isn’t shared because organizations lack procedures or systems for communication. Advances in technology are helping to overcome some of those challenges, according to “The ‘Big Data’ Revolution in Healthcare,” a study by McKinsey & Co.

Big data is still a work in progress in medicine. “If a certain number of people have a disease, the task of searching for them will take minutes instead of days,” Dr. Sejdic says. “But for other things, it will still take days because you need to develop software first for analyzing the data.”

Too much data can be a problem, too. “When you know what you want to find out, it’s a much easier problem,” he says. “But if you’re looking for new patterns, it’s more of a fishing expedition. Whenever we do clinical trials, we are flushing out the details. There’s so much information that it’s hard to track it. Until we do that, we won’t have a good understanding. The major change will occur in the next 10 to 15 years.”

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

The Living Heart Project: Remarkable Progress Achieved Through a Common Goal to Improve Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes

By Helene

LHP-zSpace-Demo-Zygote-Heart-hi-res_600

Steve Levine, Chief Strategy Officer for SIMULIA Dassault Systèmes, is passionate about bringing cutting edge technologies from different disciplines to doctors and the patients they treat. In a recent recorded presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum in November 2014, Levine outlined the need for utilizing these technologies to build better human anatomical models, stating that 95% of all medical devices released to the public have never been tested on the human body.

The Living Heart Project was launched publicly in May 2014 to develop the world’s first realistically functioning computer model of the human heart. This project has made tremendous progress, and the video referenced above includes Levine and Dassault Systèmes President and CEO Bernard Charlès announcing a 5 year collaboration with the Food and Drug Association to develop cardiovascular testing paradigms.

The Living Heart Project relied on Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE platform to bring together more than 100 cardiovascular specialists from 30 organizations to develop and test the model. In the video, Levine commented that at the outset, bringing together researchers, doctors, medical device companies, and regulatory agencies was a challenging task as information is siloed. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allowed the specialists to crowdsource the heart model, with each bringing their expertise without sacrificing intellectual property.

The video shows impressive visualizations of The Living Heart model that are, pardon the pun, heart stopping. Levine points out in his presentation that it is the first four chambered 3D heart model that is based on commercially available, validated technology. He also showed that the model can be viewed in different ways, highlighting mechanical stresses important for indications such as heart failure as well as visualizing electrical conductivity which is important for studying heart arrhythmia. Levine also showed how collaborations within Dassault Systèmes were instrumental to visualize The Living Heart in 3D, as a “walk in” model. Additionally, 3DEXCITE provided true to life coloring and features to aid medical students and surgeons.

Levine went on to tell the story of Emily, a girl born with a heart that is literally “backwards,” with right and left ventricles transposed. As the earlier 3D models Levine showed in the presentation illustrated, the heart is not symmetrical, so this defect has caused Emily to have 4 pacemakers by the age of 20. In May 2014 an animated video showed Emily’s story and how the The Living Heart would help diagnose and treat her. Emily’s story is particularly touching for Levine to relay, and the reasons are best explained by him, so we encourage you to watch the entire video of his talk to learn why.

Levine talked about the collection of resources available at 3ds.com/heart which helped to describe the vision of the Living Heart Project to collaborators and to illustrate their progress.  He sees the project as a model to unite other healthcare specialists, medical device companies and regulatory bodies to collaborate around aspects of human anatomy or disease models. The 5 year collaboration with the FDA will increase the number of participating organizations from 30 to 100 and will continue to involve the Medical Device Innovation Consortium of which Dassault Systèmes is a key sponsor.

Making Global Medical Device Product Innovation A Reality – Watch the Webinar Replay

By Helene

Technically and geographically diverse product development teams must work together more closely than ever to develop medical devices which will focus on the needs of patients and doctors globally. In order for medical device companies to compete, traditional voice of customer (VOC) approaches need to keep pace with healthcare consumers increasingly sophisticated product needs. Medical device product innovation can result from improved ideation which facilitates collaboration between all global stakeholders.

Medical device product development is a complex process involving research and development teams, designers, and the marketing and regulatory teams that gather requirements from customers and governing agencies. A 2012 report from Axendia titled “Walking the Tightrope: Balancing the Risks and Rewards of Med-Tech Globalization” highlights the opportunities and challenges posed by increasing globalization. Medical device product opportunities lie in growing global patient markets and working with outsourced partners in a more collaborative role. Challenges include increasing data visibility and analysis as well as keeping track of regulations for each region.

Smart Watch Design for the Life Sciences Industry

Smart Watch Design for the Life Sciences Industry

Dan Matlis, president of Axendia, was one of three speakers at Dassault Systèmes (3DS) sponsored webinar during the December 3rd (now available on replay) discussing results from this report as well as ways medical device companies can address them. The webinar titled “Learn How Leading Medical Device Organizations are Driving Innovation in a Global Marketplace”  also included Cathi Crist, Partner and leader of the Life Sciences practice at Kalypso where she educated viewers on how product lifecycle management (PLM) facilitates innovation. Rounding out the webinar was Stuart Karten of Karten Design, where he shared his firsthand insights on how leading medical device organizations are leveraging design and innovation to improve and create new products. Click here to watch the webinar replay.

Today’s global consumers develop strong and sometimes very personal reactions about the healthcare products they experience, and are quick to discuss their likes and dislikes via social media. These tweets, Facebook updates, and Instagram posts in turn create more discussion and opinions among their network and beyond. These data create a rich product development resource for medical device companies. Focus groups and surveys have always been used by companies to gauge needs of their customers, but they can be time intensive and expensive. Innovative medical device companies realize that listening to customers first, in real time, rather than being reactionary when complaints arise, will be the winning strategy. Indeed, putting patients and doctors first, and even involving them in the product development process, will result in more customer satisfaction and sales.

The Dassault Systèmes Ideation and Concept Design for Medical Device Industry Solution Experience redefines medical technology workflow via social collaboration. Powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, it is the first cloud-based, all in one innovation management system. This solution was highlighted during the webinar, and in keeping with social collaboration, we hope you can join the discussion, and leave any comments or questions below.



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