With the upcoming deadline for the 2016 DatSci Awards extended to July 17th you still have a few days left to apply. The exciting thing is that we are seeing benefits in so many areas of our lives. This article looks at some of the positive developments and innovations in the health sector.
The more data we have, the more we are able to better learn and understand about so many aspects of our lives, especially in relation to our own health, fitness and well-being.
The Life Project for example by Helen Pearson illustrates the impact of gathering over 70 years of data (and counting) from one major birth cohort in the UK. This study gathered the data from a group of people all born within one week in 1946, and has continued to track their lives ever since. Seventy years later we now live in a time where even more people and their data are possible to be monitored and studied. These early large data sets helped to uncover the link between smoking during pregnancy and infant mortality. Now with more and more wearable health technologies it is possible to learn even more.
Here in Ireland centres like the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, an Irish #BigData research institute based at UCD already has over 350 researchers and is still growing. The centre’s director, Brian Caulfield, explains the goal of the centre “is to use data as a human aid. Humans are still needed to then analyse and interpret this data, and consider the best ways to use it. The goal is to provide better data for people to make decisions, not to replace the humans”. Caulfield and his team are already seeing useful applications in monitoring the health of chronically sick people in their own homes. Monitoring systems can then alert the relevant medical authorities if the person’s monitoring equipment emits any potentially dangerous warning signals. They are also working in close collaboration with Leinster Rugby and other sporting organisations to learn more about optimising human performance based on data led insights.
The Quantified Self is a growing movement across the world that looks to use data about ourselves to achieve ‘self knowledge through numbers’. There are local chapters all over the world, including here in Ireland. Justin Lawler co-organiser of the Dublin Quantified Self meetup at the Trinity Science Gallery described the massive potential for health benefits from data led insights. “Larry Page from Google recently said that with data mining healthcare data, over 100,000 lives could be saved annually. With advanced blood testing becoming accessible and affordable to all, this becomes achievable.” Lawler’s most recent Quantified Self meetup in Dublin focussed on the future of blood testing.
This event showcased the exciting developments in needle-less home based blood testing. This innovations offer the ability to return a much wider range of data and insights which will help to know more about our health and well being.
As Lawler explains, there are many potential positive applications The future of detailed, easy to use blood testing opens up a range of potential new applications. Cheap and easily done high frequency blood tests for cancer, pre-diabetes or a range of additional diseases. Managing chronic diseases safely through lifestyle changes rather than drugs. Home blood testing is becoming a real possibility, companies like Cor and Cue are developing products to do advanced blood tests without the need for labs.”
Lawler also sees wider potential health benefits for us through increased access to data “Cheap & accessible Quantified Self tools available to us now give us greater visibility into our health unlike ever before. Being able to track & maintain optimum health has never been more achievable.”.
MedTech data led initiatives are speeding up the time between testing and results
Many Irish companies are expanding the number of people they are employing in MedTech positions. Galway has developed a reputation as an important and growing area for MedTech jobs. Alere for example, have developed innovative diagnostic medical tests that can be undertaken at the ‘point-of-care’ instead of centralised labs, enabling patients to get their test results faster and get treated quicker. This reduction in waiting time between testing and results can have massive, potentially life saving benefits. Alere also recently announced they will be hiring another 40 people for their Galway operations too, illustrating the wider benefits for Ireland too of being a market leader in MedTech.
Share your positive data stories with us and apply for the DatSci Awards
There are so many positive stories out there in the fields of data science. We’d love to hear and celebrate as many of these as possible. The DatSci awards were created for this reason, with as many categories as possible, to reward as wide a range of successful data scientist endeavours.
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