For a long time, doctors have been able to diagnose people with diabetes—one of the world’s fastest growing chronic diseases—by testing a patient’s insulin levels and looking at other common symptoms, as well as laboratory results.
While there has been great accuracy in their diagnoses in the past, the real opportunity in healthcare at the moment, according to Dell chief medical officer Dr. Nick van Terheyden, is the role big data can play in taking the accuracy of that diagnosis a step further by examining a person’s microbiome, which changes as people develop diabetes.
“We can come up with a definitive diagnosis and say you have it based on these criteria. But now, interestingly, that starts to open up opportunities to say ‘could you treat that?'” Terheyden said.
He described these new advancements as “mind-blowing.”
“So, there is now the potential to say ‘I happen to know you’re developing diabetes, but I’m going to give you therapy that changes your biome and reverses that process, and to me that’s just mind-blowing as I continue to see these examples,” Terheyden said.
He pinned a major contributor to the “explosion” of data to genomics, saying having additional data will increase the opportunity for clinicians to identify correlations that have previously been poorly understood or gone unnoticed, and improve the development and understanding of causation.
“When the first human was sequenced back in the early 2000s, it was billions of dollars, and many years and multiple peoples’ work and effort. We’re now down to sequencing people in under 24 hours and for essentially less than US$1,000. That creates this enormous block of data that we can now look at,” he said.
Increasingly, Terheyden believes the healthcare sector will see the entry of data experts, who will be there to help and support clinicians with the growing influx of the need to analyse data.