Saturday, October 29, 2011

Algos in the Health Care Equation

 

“Many problems in society are just poorly designed algorithms”

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According to Bill Gates at a recent University of Washington talk, He posits that: 

“The Miracle Of Availability” And Applying Computer Science To The World” 

is certainly the case now with mHealth in all shapes and forms, Android devices iOS devices and Windows 7 phones.

He admits to not being able to think in terms of terabytes and petabytes in this age as compared to his boyhood days of being happy with kilobytes and rarely a megabyte.  Programmers were spartans in that age, and there was no room for ‘bloat’. Gates admitted that he simply isn’t ideologically suited for allocating terabytes and petabytes.

His comments regarding health care:

When the most controversial bill of a political era (Obama’s health care bill) is over four thousand pages long and totally unreadable by the average voter, how is that effective?

“I like hash tables and I dislike malaria”

He then moved on to the question of poverty and disease. His primary insight came when he was working with researchers to create a stochastic model of “one of my reactors.” It was immensely complicated but the computing power at their disposal made it possible. He thought, if we can model a reactor, with all these forces and materials, why can’t we model disease, including the mosquitos, the people, the environment, the solutions?

So they worked at it and eventually came up with an immensely complex model for disease vectors, weather, vaccines, life cycles, seasons, and everything else. They compared it with real statistics and it checked out. He said with confidence: “The world effort to get rid of malaria will be based on this model.” And the modeling approach to problems, now that we have the computing power to simulate the world with some precision, is just as important to apply elsewhere. Whether it’s malaria, polio, crops, nuclear reactors, sanitation, or education, “it makes you so much more rational in terms of what you do.”

Statements such as these empowers those in healthcare who want more algos and clinical decision support. The question arises as to who is going to be the testing and certifying authority for these systems? Will it be a subcommittee of the medical board in the department of consumer affairs, or perhaps a new ANSI board. Will there be a liason between these disjointed organizatons?

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