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News & Press: News

The Hidden Big Data Transformation of Chronic Disease Management

06 September 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Heather Smith
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What is Big Data?

The incredible amount of data which is created by connected devices, health records and smartphone apps result in what we know as ‘Big Data’. Simply put, it is a creation of unique, large and complex data sets that require specific techniques to analyse (“Big data - Wikipedia,” n.d.). Big Data includes data sets with sizes beyond the capability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage and process data with a tolerable elapsed time.

Chronic diseases are medical conditions which consistently could create medically-relevant data from multiple sources, such as the electronic health record, the smart glucose meter (lens in this futuristic case study), the food tracking application and the activity tracking wearable and companion app. Superficially, these data sources, are indirectly related and the role of Big Data is to bring all of these sources together.

How do we deal with this massive data?

The answer is found in collaborative working environments where doctors, patients, healthcare professionals, user interface and web designers, software developers and data scientists working under one roof designing highly specific solutions for the patients and healthcare providers.

Some chronic conditions are especially difficult to treat due to their highly variable symptoms, complications and treatment responses. Big Data together with Internet of Things Devices, Electronic Health Records and Machine Learning (HealthITAnalytics, 2016) could create groundbreaking efforts to deal with chronic conditions. A team of experts at the National Science Foundation in collaboration with John Hopkins University have created statistical algorithms that enable computers to analyse large volumes of medical records and identify subgroups of patients with similar patterns of disease progression (“Big Data to individualize management of chronic diseases (Science Nation) | Electrical and Computer Engineering,” n.d.).

What is the European Union doing with regards to Big Data in Healthcare?

The latest study on Big Data in Public Health, Telemedicine and Healthcare released in December 2016 (“News - European Commission,” n.d.) offers 10 main policy recommendations which intrinsically have a relation with Chronic Disease management such as Education and Training, Data Sources and Analysis.

What are the secret ingredients?

More than ever we need three main things. Despite having my own ideas about this, I was watching the video on the eHealth Tallinn 2017 landing page, with the cute little character on the left side. I found the three main points to be quite articulate in explaining how Big Data in Healthcare in Europe can be successful:

  1. Data Governance
  2. Legal Framework
  3. Technology

What’s amazing is that most of the technology to enable this is already there, but the last two step which are data governance and legal framework will have the opportunity to be fully clarified in the upcoming Estonian EU Presidency.

Let’s follow up this conversation at eHealth Tallinn taking place in Tallinn, Estonia between 16 and 18th October 2017. Looking forward to seeing you there!


Big Data to individualize management of chronic diseases (Science Nation) | Electrical and Computer Engineering. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from
Big data - Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from
Digital Contact Lenses Can Transform Diabetes Care. (2016, April 7). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from
HealthITAnalytics. (2016, February 16). How Big Data, EHRs, IoT Combine for Chronic Disease Management. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from
News - European Commission. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from

Article Source:

Article Author: Stefan Buttigieg

Specialist Trainee in Public Health Medicine, Malta