Big Data: Cure to Society’s Ills or a Data Privacy Nightmare?

Like any other industry, healthcare benefits greatly from big data, business analytics and the IoT. Patients, physicians, and an ever-growing number IoT-enabled devices are generating massive amounts of data. When aggregated and analyzed, this data can tell us much about the state of the population’s health. It also helps our understanding of the health issues society faces and provides valuable insights into how we can overcome those problems.

However, healthcare data is so inextricably linked to our personal lives that issues like data privacy and ownership have also become increasingly important. To explore all sides of the conversation, the good, the great and the challenging, Western Digital partnered with ReadWrite, a leading online platform dedicated to covering the IoT and the connected world, to host an event titled “Connected Health: Does Your Data Need a Checkup?”.

Key Highlights from the Event

  • Big data can not only help us live longer, it can make those additional years more productive and satisfying by maximizing our physical capacity for as long as possible
  • The healthcare industry must find a way to aggregate data while still maintaining patient confidentiality; it’s the only way to get access to enough patient data to create data lakes large enough to provide statistically relevant findings
  • Consumers are very protective of their healthcare data, so they need to see how providing their data will benefit themselves (i.e. healthcare recommendations specific to their needs) or their community (i.e. other breast cancer patients) before they’ll share
  • While big data may be the future of healthcare, it’s important to remember this industry deals with sensitive, often life-altering issues. Don’t let the possibilities of big data overshadow the importance of “a good bedside manner” in communication between doctors and patients


Welcome and Keynote

Editor-in-chief Kevin Curwin with ReadWrite and Western Digital’s fellow and chief data scientist Janet George welcomed the audience and panelists. They were followed by John Shepherd from the UCSF School of Medicine, who shared how his team leverages data analytics to determine patient bone density based on posture and body shape.

Fireside Chat

Kevin Curwin sat down with Alexander Grunwald, global head of Healthcare Innovation Investment and Strategy with Johnson & Johnson. Amongst other things, they discussed how big data analytics and the IoT are helping Johnson & Johnson.


In addition to Janet, John and Alexander, the panel included:

  • Christine Lemke, President, Evidation Health
  • Thomas Kurian, Senior Director, Strategy and Ecosystems in the Enterprise Intelligence Solutions Group, Zebra Technologies

A video of the panel discussion is below. It captures each speaker’s presentation and a lively Q&A between panelists and audience members.

What is the value in healthcare data? What do you see as your role in the healthcare data ecosystem? Sound off in our comments section below and be sure to participate in our latest poll.

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