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Tina Hernandez-Boussard: How data improves the quality of health care

A specialist in bioinformatics explains that the tools of data science are delivering insights into health care outcomes and improving care as never before.

a doctor shows test results to a patient on a digital tablet

Technology can improve transparency and build patient trust. | Stocksy/Sean Locke

Tina Hernandez-Boussard is an expert in biomedical informatics who says a new era of understanding the real outcomes of our health care systems is on the horizon thanks to big data, artificial intelligence, and the growing availability of electronic health data.

She says that the combination of these tools and data holds the promise of providing never-before-possible insights into whether health procedures truly improve patient quality of life and for which populations.

With these tools, she says, her field can peer into the “real-world” details hidden in the medical records, even going so far as to use natural language processing to analyze the freeform notes and emails to and from the provider. The examples are virtually limitless: matching health records against data from wearable devices to know when a knee patient is not getting enough physical exercise, cross-referencing prescriptions to learn whether a patient might be susceptible to adverse drug combinations, or even revealing undisclosed medical events such as past mild heart attacks.

It’s all there in the data, waiting for us to explore, as Tina Hernandez-Boussard tells bioengineer and host Russ Altman in this episode of Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything podcast. Listen and subscribe here.