Motivation: The 4th wheel in the expansion of Big Data (Warning: May contain blunt pessimism)

Based on our readings throughout this course, one thing is pretty clear: Big Data can do a lot of things which would better humanity.  The big examples in The Fourth Paradigm is that weather could one day become easier to predict, which would not only mean safer disaster procedures, but possibly more efficient agricultural planning and that diseases could be easier to diagnose.

However, I am still left with questions, the primary of which is the question of motivation in the field of medicine; will people other than academics and people who will benefit from it actually want to use big data in society? 

My family has quite a few doctors in it and the big thing they always seem to talk about, when they get together, is how many doctors will jack up the costs as much as they can.  My dad was most recently concerned about the cost of a laser kidney stone surgery: $13,000.  This is clearly more expensive than what it needs to be; the equipment is used often and it isn’t a difficult procedure: the doctor bursts the lodged stone into tiny pieces so that they can pass through without cutting into the patient.

The motivation for such costs is that in such matters, people will always pay for it, and if they don’t, the government or the insurance company will.  Therefore, it is economically beneficial for a doctor to get as much money out of a patient as possible, because it’s not like people worried about their safety are going to think about saving money, which is a key assumption behind the success of the market economy.  If you are in immense pain or are in a life-death situation, you will probably only care about the cost of a procedure if you absolutely cannot afford it.

With this in mind, why would many doctors utilize something that would cut the number of procedures, increase their efficiency, and therefore cut costs?  Not very many would, and its use as a means of competition is limited, as many areas have their hospitals monopolized by a private entity.  Also, a catchy ad campaign can make anyone forget about who has the better technology.

Recently, I’ve come across doctors whose offices still use typewriters, personally this bothers the heck out of me, but no one else seems to mind. With this in mind, where do doctors outside of research find the motivation to use any new technology, when some doctors are even resisting current technology?

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3 Responses to Motivation: The 4th wheel in the expansion of Big Data (Warning: May contain blunt pessimism)

  1. cbaughma says:

    I think you present an excellent point in that doctors may not want to use the newer technologies for fear of losing money. However, I believe that technology can help in terms of procedural accuracy, which overall betters human health. Many doctors want to ensure that they are improving the well being of their patients, and if a new technology will enable them to do so, I think doctors will try to invest in the newer technologies as much as possible. Yes, money will always be a factor, but as long as we supplement doctors willing to utilize the newer machines to make sure that the doctors personally are not losing money, big data will help. Perhaps research promoters should enforce the benefits of using the machines, which will help discover newer trends by compiling and analyzing all of the big data output the machines are capable of recording. We need to emphasize that by using newer technologies, doctors can be a part of something larger, something more, which can lead to breakthrough discoveries in science.

    • clairejwiggins says:

      Another thing to keep in mind with the doctors example is that it is often to hospital managers who decide how/when to spend money. Even though it may not appear to look like one, hospitals are a business land are run as such, which is a whole other controversy in itself. Besides, I think that if big data could be used to the hospital’s advantage, I think that it could actually help the hospitals save money in the long run, by examine patient behaviors or the effectiveness of certain procedures. Big data could help eliminate waste, while still providing doctors a high salary.

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