Big Data can help reform healthcare system in Oman, say experts

Oman Tuesday 27/September/2016 21:58 PM
By: Times News Service
Big Data can help reform healthcare system in Oman, say experts

Muscat: Data mining could become an efficient way for reforming the healthcare system in Oman, according to experts.
Speaking at the Health Expo 2016, Arjun Panesar, chief executive officer,, highlighted the importance of mata mining in the healthcare sector.
“Every industry has now embraced the potential of Big Data, except the healthcare industry. However, this trend is changing and studies have shown the extent to which this technology can prove useful for people,” he explained.
He cited several examples of research carried out by independent organisations, where Big Data had predicted the approaching detrimental event with efficiency much before the government authorities.
Based on identifying patterns from large population sizes to predict possible forthcoming health issues in an individual, data mining or Big Data can become a pioneering technology embraced by the healthcare sector. The fact that it has already been implemented in several other sectors, such as transport and industry, with positive, sometimes overwhelming results, the technology is eventually bound to enter the healthcare sector.
“By identifying patterns in genes and other biological variables, it has the ability to predict the onset of dangerous infections and diseases that maybe inflicted on an uninformed person, much before it actually happens. That is what sets it apart, the ability to predict what a human maybe prone to due to genes or lifestyle or other variables,” said Panesar.
Currently, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Oman has an IT infrastructure to collect data for adverse events but there is no system to analyse it. According to Samra Al Barwani, Director of Risk Management and Patient safety at MoH there is a reporting system for adverse events, near misses or sentinel events for almost all governmental hospitals, but the system is not well integrated from reporting to data aggregations.
The reporting part is effective it is accessed by authorised staff, but the data analysis, trending will be done manually carried out in ordinary programme like word or excel sheet.
For future the Directorate General for Quality Assurance Centre is working on centralising all reporting of adverse events at a national level covering all primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors.
Dr. Mohsin, a consultant at one of the largest chains of hospitals in Oman, expressed his concerns over the use of Big Data for medical purposes. “Even after countless pros, Big Data is a very powerful tool that could leave much personal information bare. Some of which will be hard even for the patient to know. An example can be the prediction of a life threatening disease in a person due to genes or lifestyle years earlier. Where this could save lives, it could also send patients into depression, eventually putting them in a worse state,” said Mohsin, while highlighting the side effects of Big Data.
Privacy Concerns
The fundamentals of data mining showcase its high correlation with data possession. The more data is accessible, the more definitive it is. However, the question that arises is: are people ready to share the data? And even if they are, who would possess that data and how could it be used?
Al Barwani explained the ministry’s approach to privacy issues. “Discretion related to patient privacy is high priority and always maintained. Only staff in the department is aware of patient information, therefore the chances of malpractice are very low.”