Stopping disease with Tweets – powered by big data
Big data analytics is changing the way healthcare observations are made. According to GigaOM, researchers found that Twitter was an effective signal of the spread of cholera in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Speaking to Dr. Rumi Chunara, the author of a Harvard study on fighting the disease, the source discovered how tweets could notify authorities faster than official monitoring.
“Official case reports have to get verified by hospitals, so it often takes a couple of weeks for that information to be posted and available to health workers,” Chunara told the source. “Informal sources like Twitter are obviously much more real-time.”
Twitter produces unstructured data which requires processing and understanding of its many slang-laced, text-based messages to find insight. Text analytics is a rising field concerned with taking the constant stream of information from such sources and making usable models out of them. Healthcare data analytics is one of several ends it has been applied to.
According to InformationWeek, big data is being used in the fight against multiple sclerosis as well. Rather than using social texts, however, a team at SUNY Buffalo is delving deep into clinical information on genetics and environmental factors to determine the root causes behind MS’ development in particular patients.