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Big data – big problems or big solutions?

ESC Congress News 2019 - Paris, France

The term ‘big data’ provokes many questions, from ‘What is it?’ to ‘What is its place in clinical medicine?’ or even ‘Will I be replaced by a computer?’

Digital Health


Prof. Martin CowieProfessor Martin Cowie (Imperial College London, London, UK), Chair of ESC’s Digital Health Committee explains, “With so many questions, the ESC wants to give delegates a broader understanding of the tools available and the directions that big data and associated information-processing techniques may take us. Navigating this dynamic fast-moving area is difficult—we don’t want to be drowned in a tsunami of data, but we should take what’s valuable from these approaches to maximise benefit for patients and healthcare systems.” There are concerns that artificial intelligence and machine learning may replace human intelligence with regards to clinical reasoning. Prof. Cowie explains, “The datasets generated are much larger than we have seen before and bigger than individual clinicians may develop over a lifetime of experience, so while there is excitement, some caution is warranted. Artificial intelligence based on big datasets is being used in online symptom checkers and we need to establish if these tools are accurate and reliable. Many companies are moving into this space and we need to understand where the clinician fits in and how we should advise patients about these services. But potential benefits include improved access to high-level medical advice, which may be particularly pertinent for patients living in remote rural places.”

Many aspects of cardiology rely on imaging and there are also concerns that increasing automation may lead to job losses, but Prof. Cowie sees a positive side, “In reality, the amount of routine work may be reduced allowing healthcare professionals to spend more time focusing on patients that require more clinical expertise. There is a lot of hype, and talk about the potential for harm, but mostly, there is hope that we will be able to use new techniques as ‘digital support’, rather than them being ‘digital disruption’, and they may actually increase the impact of humans working in healthcare.”

Today’s joint session with the International Society for Cardiovascular Translational Research will discuss these topics, from concept to clinical practice. A symposium tomorrow also aims to provide answers to some of the difficult questions relating to new data sciences.

 

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Notes to editor

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together healthcare professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

About ESC Congress 2019

ESC Congress is the world’s largest and most influential cardiovascular event contributing to global awareness of the latest clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries. ESC Congress 2019 takes place 31 August to 4 September at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris - France. Explore the scientific programme