5 Minutes With Edward Meinert, Global eHealth Unit Head of Education at Imperial

Posted on : 28-04-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Data, Innovation

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As the Global eHealth Unit Head of Education at Imperial College London, could you please share your insights and predictions on the direction and speed of digital change within healthcare?

Digital technology and digital innovation have already had significant impact on the healthcare industry. If we think back to electronic medical records and their advancements from the late 90s to where we are today, it is quite powerful how we started from collecting very basic patient demographic system to the holistic electronical medical record that exists today.
When we think about that advancement and then the advancement in wearable technology, and in the ways information can be gathered and the big data context, the possibilities are endless for the ways digital technology and digital data stratification can impact the way in which physicians can collect, capture and analyse information to make clinical judgements for individuals.


Which innovations within healthcare IT excite you the most?

I think the biggest innovation is the ability to collect data across an aggregate population to create insight on what is happening. An ability to capture data across countries, nations and the world to then provide researchers or organisations with capabilities to see what is going on with people in the real-time capacity.


What do you see as the main obstacle to the implementation of a bigdata-driven approach to decision making by many organisations?

I think the biggest obstacles are the issues that have to do with privacy – ensuring that we can protect patient confidentiality and prevent misuse of information. That is the biggest obstacle. The second, which is a challenge in all the data, not just in the healthcare industry, is enabling data linkage and providing researchers or organisations with the ability to create synergies between different data points.


Security and privacy are paramount in the field of healthcare data. How can patients’ sensitive data be protected in the slowly but surely approaching digital health era?

There are many ways and techniques that can be used to ensure strong information governance. It is really about applying rules to the ways in which information is captured, at the first level; when information is transferred, ensuring certain protocols for the language in which it is transferred and then, when used by mass consumer organisations for either insurance pooling or just understanding what is happening across the population, again, creating strong rules of information governance. Abiding these rules and getting the processes that will protect information. However I do not think it is a barrier. It is just a hurdle that needs to be overcome in the deployment of the systems.


How do you see the future of healthcare careers?

I think the future is quite exciting in the sense that there are big opportunities for multidisciplinary individuals who are skilled in computer science, management, analytics to apply their skills into healthcare, to help enable clinicians and practitioners with the capabilities to use these data insights to impact the way in which we practice care. I think it is an expansive area of opportunity for people with interest in healthcare who do not necessarily have a clinical background to apply their skills and expertise to the way in which we solve problems within this industry.

A Few More Thoughts on Data Security and Data Privacy in the ‘Golden Age of Surveillance’

Posted on : 30-03-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : Cyber Security, Data, General News, Innovation

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In the era of unparalleled tech innovation and global terrorism threats, 1) more and more of our sensitive data is being collected and 2) sophisticated surveillance measures are put into practice. We are being gradually deprived of (or perhaps willingly giving away) our privacy. Security guru Bruce Schneier goes as far as referring to current times as the ‘Golden Age of Surveillance’.

We previously discussed the issue of data security and privacy in the context of top 2015 hacks as well as innovations such as A.I. toys and healthcare wearables in our December blog post: Data Privacy/Security You Can Run But You Can’t Hide.

Here’s some more food for thought on the topic.

Governments and corporations not only collect much larger and more wide ranging datasets on us as individuals, but are also, now more than ever, able to compile it, make sense of it and take action based on in-depth big data insight. As noted by Chief Data Scientist of an admired Silicon Valley company during an interview with Jemand mit Eiern, the goal is to “change people’s actual behaviour at scale” through capturing their behaviors and identifying the ‘good’ versus ’bad’ behaviours to then create ways to reward the ‘good’ and punish the ‘bad’. The ultimate goal? Profit and control.

The application of big data to alter behaviours is very clear on both the corporate and government side; from Google, which announced that its maps will no longer merely provide users with a route they search for, but also suggest a destination, to China, which is now building a ‘pre-crime’ big data platform. China’s new tool will allow predictive policing, identifying individuals who ‘have the potential’ to engage in suspicious activities, based on complex data derived from citizens’ online and offline activity (including transactions, locations, who they engage with etc.) and thus to prevent crime, altering the way individuals behave.

Schneier finds what happens a ‘at the back-end’ in terms of big data rather disturbing. During Forbes’s first tech podcast ‘The Premise‘ he spoke about ‘dossiers’ that are built up with multiple inputs, such as “face recognition plus miniature cameras, plus Facebook’s database of tagged photos, plus the credit card database of your purchasing habits data… all of that put together…” The data privacy thought leader stresses that while on the corporate side big data and surveillance are used to get people to consume things, on the government side it is a tool for a variety of things: law enforcement, social control, terrorism, and political manipulation, making sure that ‘certain’ ideas don’t spread and silencing ‘certain’ people.

Knowledge is power and it is important to consider whom these surveillance/intelligence powers can be used against. Snowden recently reminded us of the case of UK Government Communications Headquarters (GSCHQ), which has previously used their ‘powers’ to spy on journalists and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

How much of our data do we agree to ‘give away’? Is it at all possible to ensure that only the ‘good guys’ can access all this big, big data which, as we discussed, can be used to alter our behaviours?

During one of his recentAsk Me Anything Reddit sessions, Bill Gates himself drew the attention to the issue of data security. Microsoft’s founder demanded more public debate around bulk data collection and stressed that there are currently insufficient safeguards in place to make sure that information on us is only used for – what he called – the ‘proper’ reasons.

How do you even define ‘proper’ reasons?

The issue is highly relevant to the UK. In an interview for the Guardian, UN privacy chief Joseph Cannataci stated that “UK surveillance is worse than 1984″, “a rather bad joke at its citizens’ expense” and criticised the government for its approach to the Investigatory Powers Bill  In the case of the bill proceeding into statute, the Snooper’s Charter will have significant ramifications for Brits’ collective privacy.

Edward Snowden, during a talk he gave in Poland in mid-March, summarised the surveillance vs. security ‘dilemma’ (one, which the British MPs are currently facing) as follows:

 “Do we want liberty or do we want sort of a sense of total order where you may feel that life is a little bit more predictable but you are reliant upon some great authority that really has the extraordinary power to interfere in your life and tell you where to go what to do and how (…) and watch you at all times in exchange for a feeling of safety that in practical way is not delivered in any more reliable way today than it was before?”.

Schneier agrees with this view and stresses that surveillance with no probable cause is not compatible with liberty:

“the whole point of democracy is that we are willing to live with some amount of crime because we realise that a totalitarian police state is much worse”.

At the same time, the security champion discredits the ‘myth’ that surveillance is good for security: “There is no evidence for that. It has been stated as a truism and we’re expected to believe”. Whenever we see counter-terrorism success it is based on targeted, not mass surveillance.

Big data will get bigger, there is no question to it. However, “we need comprehensive laws that regulate all forms of data: collection, storage, use, sale, destruction. The whole process”, Schneier argues. Let’s hope that sooner or later we will learn to appreciate our privacy and put in place systems to protect it.