Health and Big Data

We live in a time in which an incredible amount of data is being generated. For this data to be useful, it must be converted into information. And that’s where Big Data, Data Mining and Data Science come in. All this data, properly handled and managed, can make research advance faster and more effectively and medicine can also be much more efficient. However, this enormous amount of raw data also presents several challenges, such as privacy management, storage, and accessibility from remote centers.

In all aspects of healthcare, there are many sources of data that give rise to a tremendous amount of information. Everything from structured data (patients’ names, their analytical values) to unstructured data (such as medical notes, X-rays, medical reports) is generated in the healthcare sector. On top of this, we must add the large amount of information about our health generated nowadays by wearable devices. The biomedical information that will be available is expected to double every year and a half over the next few years, making it a great challenge to manage and obtain useful information from this data. This enormous amount of data can provide us with a great deal of relevant information, which can be used for what is known as personalized medicine (disease prevention, personalization of treatments, better monitoring of chronic patients).

A very recent example of this is the development of the Smart Lollipop. A medical team in Catalonia has developed a lollipop-shaped device that detects diseases through saliva. This facilitates the performance of diagnostic tests in children. It consists of a smart candy able to diagnose pathologies by means of a saliva sample and digitizes the response on an online platform. The patient must consume the candy for approximately three minutes while the device collects the saliva and sends it to a biosensor. The candy is then connected to an optical reader to digitalize the diagnosis. The device can detect hypercholesterolemia and celiac disease, although they are working to add more diagnostic lines.

Source: Innovation4Kids


This is a very important breakthrough, as each year cardiovascular diseases take the lives of more than 120,000 people in Spain and 42% of these deaths are related to hypercholesterolemia, according to a study conducted by the Association of Cardiovascular Risk and Rehabilitation. In addition, more than half of the people who suffer from celiac disease are unaware of it.