What can you do with a massive amount of medical data—20 million anonymous patient files, with a decade’s worth of health-related information about all sorts of diseases, routine to serious?
GE partnered with a team of computer scientists and programmers at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab to produce Health InfoScape—an interactive, customizable data visualization that leverages 7.2 million files from the “Medical Quality Improvement Consortium,” GE’s electronic medical records database, available to customers through GE’s EMR software. The data vis aims to create new ways of understanding human health in the United States.
“We often have a tendency to think of illness as an isolated event,” Carlo Ratti, Director
of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, told GE Reports. “But our first analysis details the numerous and often unexpected associations that exist around any given condition.”
Ratti added: “The visualization gives us new insight as to how closely connected some seemingly un-related health conditions might be.”
The first step for the MIT team was getting their collective heads around a vast amount of medical data. “It’s such an unprecedented data set,” Ratti said, “the first step was visualizing it.”
The initial results, he said, “are a mix of the expected and the unexpected.” (High blood cholesterol, for example, has been linked to inhibited sexual excitement in men).
But, Ratti said, it’s hard to read too much into the initial visualization. “It’s intended as a starting point,” he said. “Now we are able to re-examine conventional categories of disease, and go much deeper.”
*Check out MOMA’s “Talk to Me” exhibit, opening July 24, which showcases the communications patterns between people and objects. SENSEable City Lab’s project “Back Talk” is featured, as is GE’s interactive “Home Appliance Energy Use” graphic, which allows users to learn more about how much energy everyday appliances consume.