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Big data, cloud computing pushing democratization of health data

Nov. 13, 2013 - 05:19PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

Advances in big data and cloud computing are driving the democratization of health care data, according to federal officials.

Niall Brennan, the director of the Office of information Products and Data Analytics, said the ability to share data in the cloud “is going to revolutionize the way people access data.”

While the agency would package data on to encrypted hard drives and ship them to researchers, Brennan said the same data can now be accessed through a cloud portal from any vetted research institution.

Brennan made the remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Bethesda chapter’s annual Health IT conference at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Health and Human Services Department in Bethesda, Md.

He said while the agency has collected data before it is working to make sure that health care providers, customers and researchers have the data, they need to make better decisions.

“We need the right data in the right form at the right time to the right people,” he said.

By building better tools and sharing data across the cloud, more scientists and researchers will be able to access the data in productive ways, said Mike Tartakovsky, the chief information officer and director of the Office of Cyberinfrastructure and computational Biology at the National Institute of Health’s National institute of Allergy and infectious Diseases.

“We need to democratize access,” Tartakovsky said.

George Komatsoulis, the deputy director of CBIIT at the National Cancer Institute, said within the next 10 years every patient is going to want access to large-scale biomedical informatics because of the capability for personalized cancer treatments.

Komatsoulis said the agency is also reaching out to map the genome of 11,000 tumors and place the data in the cloud in order to help drive cancer research. To date, the agency has gathered 2.5 petabytes of data — which could take months to transfer to research institutions — he said.

By placing that data within the cloud, it can be accessed far more easily and in less time, Komatsoulis said.

“We are trying to democratize access to the data and provide compute and paid-for data sets so that scientists across the globe can go and work on this data,” he said.

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