My recent Perspective on iHealthbeat focused on the uses of data mining of EMR data which are yet to be fully exploited. My thoughts were provoked by a New York Times article titled, Mining Electronic Records for Revealing Health Data.  Although data mining in healthcare has gotten a bad reputation, an approach which respects privacy and a focus on research discovery can yield important results. The potential uses of EMRs in research is another opportunity yet to be realized.

A new article in The Atlantic,  The Robot Will See You Now, discusses IBM Watson and other initiatives moving medicine toward what I call Algorithm Medicine and Artificial Intelligence. The potential of mining EMRs to generate real-time clinical decision support has exciting possibilities.  However, there are skeptics, especially when the predictions expand to entertain the idea of replacing physicians. Realizing the limitations of technology must be acknowledge. For instance, the concerning problem of copy-and-paste in EMRs would have a negative affect on data mining those records. Also, data mining has presents real challenges both in defining research questions and finding the correct data to answer those questions.

So data mining shows promise but a realistic approach without wild predictions can lead to real discovery and impact on practice.