Big Data and the Future of Medicine in Chile

John Quackenbush

Department Chair John Quackenbush recently traveled to Chile where he made an exciting presentation at Congreso Futuro. The Congress is a national event featuring a series of TED-style talks on topics ranging from interplanetary exploration to finding truth in social media. Quackenbush was invited to be part of a session on improving health care in Chile and spoke on the use of big data to drive precision medicine. The talk, sponsored by Roche Pharmaceuticals of Chile, was livecast across the country and covered extensively by Chilean media in publications ranging from El Mostrador to El Memo.

The talk addressed the relationship between a structured system for collection of patient data and the optimization of care and allocation of resources for treatment. According to Quackenbush, data is the raw material that drives innovation. In order to build better, more efficient health systems, a concerted effort must be made to capture, store, and integrate the increasing amount of data available from genetic sequencing, medical health records, and devices capturing lifestyle information. Equally important for success will be targeted investment in the development of robust analytical methods and, for Chile, the use of those methods to address the distinct aspects of the country’s unique population.

Because of Chile’s interest in accelerating the development and adoption of innovation in personalized medicine and health care delivery at a national level, Quackenbush met with a number of government departments and organizations to discuss ways of improving health care. This included meeting with President Sebastián Piñera, members of his cabinet, and Health Ministry officials to discuss Chilean health care, telehealth, and precision medicine.

At the end of the day, stated Quackenbush, while data will drive the future of medicine, the success of a data-driven national healthcare program will require demonstrable benefits in terms of cost-savings, results, and quality of life. However, the ultimate determinant of success will be if the system keeps patients and their needs at its heart.