In the last two weeks I’ve attended three very different scientific conferences on behalf of the CMAJ Group. In fact you couldn’t get more different than the 33rd International Conference on Pharmacoepidemiology and Therapeutic Risk Management (ICPE - all Big Data and massive record linkage aimed at finding out more about the benefits and harms of medicines and devices) and the 5th Canadian Conference on Physician Health (mainly focusing on the major problem of physician burnout and what we should do about it). And yet the same study was mentioned by plenary speakers at both conferences to support the same message: that physicians are overburdened by administrative and data-capture demands. Across four medical specialties, “for every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly 2 additional hours is spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day,” ...continue reading →
Domhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK
The James Mackenzie Lecture is one of the most prestigious eponymous lectures of the Royal College of General Practitioners. The title of the lecture recently delivered by Toronto Professor, Frank Sullivan, certainly grabbed attention. The title, "Atomic Data", actually comes from cardiologist James Mackenzie’s own ambition in setting up the Institute for Clinical Research in St. Andrews on his return to Scotland in 1918: 'to do for medicine what the Atomic Theory had done for chemistry'. And, as we may have expected from Frank, whose research interests lie in health informatics, electronic medical records, decision support systems and, of course, community based trials, he explored how “big data” could be used to transform medical research. ...continue reading →
Kirsten Patrick is Deputy Editor at CMAJ; she's currently attending the 31st International Conference on PharmacoEpidemiology &Therapeutic Risk Management (ICPE) in Boston
About a year ago I suggested "Big Medical Data" as a potential topic for a CMAJ editorial to our editors’ writing group. I remember receiving some blank looks that sounded a lot like “Weirdo!” In fact, that may well have been upon my return from the last ICPE, or perhaps it was a year before that when I came back from participating in the working group that produced The REporting of Studies Conducted Using Observational Routinely-Collected Health Data (RECORD) Statement. Anyway, there’s something about talking to people who are working with, and developing new ways of crunching, Big Data that gets me all fired up about it. I can see an exciting future full of possibilities and I want to evangelize.
In the first plenary session at ICPE yesterday, entitled “Computer Power and Human Reason: from calculation to judgement”, speakers seemed to be defending the role of the pharmacoepidemiologist now that crunching data with computer programs can tell us just about anything we need to know. What are the virtues of the human operator vs. computer systems? “Is it the pilot or the plane that’s critical for a successful flight?” ...continue reading →