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Can Big Data Improve Medical Diagnostics?

MFG Archive

For today’s News Roundup, we look at an article from the Wall Street Journal highlighting the possibility of a big data startup tackling medical diagnostics


“What if software akin to the program that recognizes faces in Facebook photos could detect cancer in an x-ray?”

This is the question asked by Elizabeth Dwoskin in this recent article in the Wall Street Journal. In her post, she looks at Enlitic, a new big data startup who are aiming to drastically improve medical diagnostics.

Enlitic was founded by Jeremy Howard, who is no stranger to the world of big data. Previously he held roles as a “data strategist for Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse Khosla Ventures” and as “President and Chief Scientist of Kaggle, which hosts big-brain predictive modelling competitions.” Currently in the process of mining data, building partnerships with hospitals, his goal is to build software that “could help doctors diagnose illnesses more quickly and accurately.”

Though details are still sparse, in Howard’s words, “it would concentrate the experience of thousands of doctors and patients.” Clearly this could have huge benefit in developing countries and rural areas where doctors are scarce. When a second opinion is needed, Enlitic’s software could prove an affordable option.

Now one of the big issues concerning the startup, and most medical organizations of this ilk, will be that it’s not hard to “envision a faulty algorithm leading to an incorrect diagnosis.” However, provided the goal isn’t to “replace physicians or enable them to automate medical care, then this should just be extra stuff on top of what they are already using.”

This isn’t the first big data startup in healthcare we’ve seen either. Dwoskin highlights that “Flatiron Health, a New York startup recently raised $130 million from investors including Google Ventures.” That momentum is building from the rise of data scientists, we could be looking at a new wave of socially focused startups centered around big data.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Dwoskin and the The Wall Street Journal for this insight into the potential future of big data and healthcare. Be sure to follow them for further updates on this, and many more stories. 

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