“Big Data” refers to the mining of enormous data banks for trends, patterns and strategies for influencing decision making in an informed way. One example of this is The Hospital Electronic Medical Records. In this case, vast amounts of data are collected, pooled and analyzed by insurance companies, drug companies, researchers and everyone interested in understanding the health of patients and the consequences of various treatments.
But does it work? Not really. The joke in hospitals these days is that if a patient comes in for an amputation of his leg, you can counsel him not to worry: When he returns to the hospital for something else — skin cancer, for example — his leg will be back on. Why? Because while the doctor admitting the patient for the skin cancer might comment on that particular problem, he is also highly likely to cut and paste into the record the results of a long past physical exam, in which the leg appeared as normal. And this is not just the fault of doctors. Everyone in the hospital has to hunt and peck to fill in these computerized records, and no one has the time to do it.
Read more on SF Examiner.