Drug Database Brings Healthcare Big Data to Ordinary People

August 25, 2013
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healthcare big dataOriginally published on MedCityNews.com

healthcare big dataOriginally published on MedCityNews.com

The healthcare industry has created more than 50 petabytes of data, but much of it never reaches the people who could benefit most from it. Former healthcare consultant Johnson Chen wanted to find a way to bring all of the useful, publicly available data from clinical drug trials to consumers who are taking those medications.

So he founded eHealthMe, a site that claims to have mined outcomes data on more than 45,000 drugs, vitamins and supplements. It’s put that into a database and created an algorithm that matches users with drug side effects or interactions reported by other people like them.

The company’s personalized symptom checker crunches a user’s information and produces a personalized report based on the data it’s collected from published researching involving people of the same gender, age, medical condition, symptoms and medications. For example, a 57-year-old man who’s taking Lipitor might want to see if his seasonal allergy medicine would interact with it. He would go to the site, enter his information, and eHealthMe would show any of the adverse reactions for people like him held in its database. Meanwhile, it’s also crowdsourcing data from users when they submit inquiries.

A user can also post a specific question about a condition or medication, and the site uses its algorithm to invite other members of the same age, gender or medication routines to answer that question.

Founder Chen is a former healthcare consultant for Deloitte & Touche. He created eHealthMe for consumers but said that as far as he can tell, about 20 to 30 percent of the site’s users are actually healthcare professionals. Regardless, it’s not meant to be used as medical advice, but rather a reference point for patients and their doctors.

Chen said that about 2 million users visit the site each month. To hear him tell it, what distinguishes eHealthMe from the other consumer health sites – WebMD, MedWhat, Meddik, Symcat, should I continue? – is two things. “We consider the cause of a symptom, not only from a condition but from a medication,” he said. The second: “We can also tell you about other people like you.”

It’s a neat idea, but the self-funded site lacks a few things. It could use a design overhaul, as it’s confusing to navigate, and the data that’s presented from a query can be challenging to interpret. The other downfall is that its business model rests purely on an advertising at this point, although Chen said that could change as the company prepares to launch two new products soon.

A companion app called Med Buddy is available on Google Play.

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