SEP 25, 2018 6:58 AM PDT

Predicting Influenza: Could Private Health Data Help?

Health data, such as information contained in a patient’s electronic health record, is closely guarded to ensure privacy and compliance with HIPAA laws. However, in a recent study, researchers at the University of Texas-Austin found that the best predictor of how severe a flu season will be is health data collected by a companies that store patient information in electronic records. The researchers at UT looked at nearly 600 datasets that are typically used to develop influenza forecasts to see which were most accurate. They found that if data collected by for-profit healthcare companies (such as athenaHealth, which was used in their study) could be combined with data from the CDC, forecasts of how severe the illness might be and what doctors could expect to see in an upcoming season would be much more precise.

It’s problematic, however, to gain access to privately held data. Companies that provide cloud-based services to doctors would have to spend a lot of time and resources on stripping identifying information from the records as well as make sure they were in full compliance with privacy laws, which are very complicated. A partnership between private companies that maintain data and public agencies that track illness would be a game changer for predicting not only influenza but for other diseases as well, but many companies are not anxious to share information they are legally required to safeguard.

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
DEC 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 15, 2019
MAVEN Mission Connects Mars' Wind Patterns to Surface Features
NASA’s MAVEN mission, launched on November 18th, 2013, has been orbiting Mars and investigating the planet’s features for more than half a deca...
DEC 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 17, 2019
Watch Seals Band Together to Scare a Great White Shark Away
Great white sharks are rather renowned for being massive and merciless predators of the ocean, and among their favorite prey are fur seals, which are rich...
DEC 23, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 23, 2019
The Trouble With the InSight Mission's Burrowing Mole Explained
NASA’s InSight mission is designed to probe the red planet’s internal physical characteristics, including heat emanating from its core and Mars...
JAN 09, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 09, 2020
Australian Bushfire Update
Devastating wildfires continue to ravage the continent of Australia. The report from BBC News below, which aired earlier this week, gives an encompassing u...
JAN 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 15, 2020
2019 Was The Second Warmest Year on Record
Independent analyses from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that 2019 was the second warmest year on recor...
FEB 16, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 16, 2020
These Jellyfish Deliver Stings Without Touching You
Most people are accustomed to thinking that if you avoid a jellyfish’s tentacles while swimming in the ocean, then you won’t be stung. For the...
Loading Comments...