What Is Big Data?

Can Big Data Put Patients on Top?

Big data” is being discussed in the media quite a bit these days.  But what exactly is it?

Generally speaking, it’s a data set that’s extremely large and complex, thus requiring advanced technology to turn it into meaningful insights.  Yet there’s a good reason to try to collect and interpret it.  Simply put, big data can reveal correlations and trends that you couldn’t spot otherwise.  As a result, it has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of disease, crime, traffic, economics and more.

At PatientsLikeMe, where more than 200,000 members are sharing data on their symptoms, treatments and conditions, we’re a perfect example of big data in action.  That’s why our team is constantly working on developing the tools needed for you and fellow members to learn from the data that you’re all sharing about your condition(s).  Ultimately, our goal is to empower you with the real-world knowledge and big data needed to make informed decisions and achieve the best health outcomes possible.

Want to learn more about the big data movement?  Check out this roundup of recent articles discussing how big data is poised to transform the health care industry:

Big Changes Are Ahead for the Health Care Industry, Courtesy of Big Data
Fast Company, June 18, 2012

Big Data Can Save Health Care—But at What Cost to Privacy?
The Atlantic Weekly, May 25, 2012

The Health Care Industry Turns to Big Data
BusinessWeek, May 17, 2012

Health Care Is Next Frontier for Big Data
Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2012

What do you think about the excitement surrounding big data?

4 thoughts on “What Is Big Data?”

  1. Big data is measured in the hundreds of terabytes – I doubt your 4 million records would fill more than 50% of the hard disk in my PC. A typical dataset with big data would have perhaps a billion or more records and require upwards of 100 Terabytes of space. Look up what genomics produces at the genome project websites, or proteomics projects – that is ‘big data’ The data held by the federal government on social security also databases. The stuff that NASA works on and military tactical warfare prediction units. So I don’t believe Patients Like Me is a ‘big data’ enterprise. It may be a matter of opinion as to what qualifies I suppose.

  2. This is horifying! I had know idea that this is how you planned to use my data. I respectfully request that all my data is removed from the government database.

    I cannot allow a government that runs guns across our borders, and then declines to take responsibility for its actions, and leaks secrets to our enemies putting American lives at risk to be the guardian of something as critical and personal as medical data.

    Have my data removed please.

  3. Hi Tim,

    Members have reported the severity of their symptoms 4 million times, but are sharing many more kinds of experiences including treatments, conditions, labs, weight, and outcome scores. Members report each of these things in many dimensions and over time. So definitely more than 4 million records!

    But how big is ‘big data’? Agreed that it seems like the jury is still out. What I do know is that PatientsLikeMe is a large (and growing!) repository of real-world patient-reported health data that’s producing meaningful insights—such as what’s been published in these peer-review journals.


    Best wishes,
    Liz Morgan
    Community Manager at PatientsLikeMe

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