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When does healthcare data mining go bad?

If I were to examine your Lifetime Health Diary daily wellness and mood records, would I see a correlation between your diet and exercise regime and how you feel?  In all probability, the answer would be ‘yes’.

11259239_fe6b60af02_mBut you may not have seen how milk/bread/chocolate affects your mood.  The potential is there for a data algorithm to infer that your ‘bad mood days’ are caused by what you ate 24 hours earlier.

Would it be helpful to have an app that automatically appraised your health data and ‘pointed out’ inferred data outcomes to you?  If it helped you improve your mood, and this was an issue for you, maybe the answer is ‘yes’.

Richard Stacey writing in the UK Huffington Post Tech calls this “Inconsequential Data”.

We think of this data as being inconsequential. Or we believe that insofar as there are consequences from sharing it, these are positive consequences or consequences that have little impact. However, when we use social media services, in most instances, we are making our data available to algorithms and that has tremendous consequences.

He goes on to explain that mining large data sets looking for patterns of activity or choices is one of the ways organisations use algorithms  to infer actions or intentions on the part of individuals.

As Richard explains

One of the powerful characteristics of algorithms is that they can derive information about something without having to rely on information that relates specifically to what it is they are investigating.

Now, Lifetime Health Diary does not do this.  But the potential exists in ALL the social channels that you are populating with data every day for Facebook, Google et al to  infer a lot about you and others who share a similar social profile to you and to take actions based on that inference.

We all guess that the CIA and MI6 don’t go round chasing suspected terrorists because they search for ‘bomb making’ on Google – these organisations lead the charge in deep data analysis of inferred behaviours.

Thinking about health and wellness there are probably some really helpful correlations from which we could all benefit.  Part of me wants my doctor to have access to that information and part of me wants to be very certain of the privacy restraints I set around my own data and who can see and analyse it.

I guess what I want is for me to be able to visually correlate how my exercise affects my diet, and vice versa — while also authorising my doctor to see that part of my health data that could let him correlate my mood against my blood pressure.

For me, that would be useful healthcare data mining!

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