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Big Data Revolution by Patrick McSharry, Rob Thomas

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CHAPTER 2: WHY DOCTORS WILL HAVE MATH DEGREES

UNITED STATES, 2014

WE ALL KNOW how it works. You walk into a doctor’s office complaining about some pain in your leg or otherwise. They take your temperature, get you on the scale, check your blood pressure, and perhaps even get out the rubber hammer. These measurements are simply snapshots at one particular instant in time and may be subject to error. This limited dataset fails to capture temporal variations or the many other important factors that are required to assess the patient’s health status. After reviewing the few measurements collected, the consultation between the patient and doctor begins. There is typically a discussion of symptoms or problems, with the physician utilizing her judgment and experience to assess the situation. While we have more advanced imaging technology and surgical equipment, these tools are rarely used early in the consultation process. Accordingly, based on the rudimentary physical analysis, along with the discussion with the patient, the physician will assert the condition that they believe is present, followed by a recommended treatment.

This approach, which is common throughout the world, is much more based on instinct and gut feeling than a scientific approach to analyzing data. Accordingly, it seems that most decisions are made based on the opinion of the physician instead of a data-proven truth. This type of opinion-based medicine is a problem in both doctor-patient care and in medical research. ...

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