Christopher Ridgeway: How analytics benefit patient care

Christopher Ridgeway
6 min readMar 18, 2021

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Christopher Ridgeway, Founder and CEO of Stone Clinical Laboratories on how analytics can be used to improve the care of patients.

Christopher Ridgeway, CEO and Founder of Stone Clinical Laboratories

Ask a retired doctor, someone who entered the profession in the 1950s or 60s, about the use of data analysis in medicine and they may well respond with a shrug or a roll of the eyes. Before the age of big data, widespread specialization and extensive diagnostic testing tools doctors simply had to “know” how to examine a patient and formulate a diagnosis.

Many doctors long for the era when practicing medicine was a combination of hard science, bedside manner, listening skills and empathy — in short, the multi-faceted art of patient care. The artistry may indeed have gone out of medicine, but the ability to analyze data also presents several important benefits for modern doctors, and therefore for patient care. Here
are just four examples.

1.Doctors can look at family history when devising a treatment plan

Once upon a time, patients had to keep hard copies of their records if they wanted to preserve the data they contained. Compiling a comprehensive family medical history required focused effort on the part of all family members, and would have demanded a large space to store x-rays, MRI scans, growth charts more.

Today, easy storage and access to data alleviates the need to keep and store
physical records, and gives medical professionals a comprehensive view of relevant information about all family members. As a result, the compiled data adds depth to a patient’s medical file, which in turn allows the medical practitioner to draft a unique treatment plan to suit the needs of each individual.

2. Public health officials can draft healthcare policy based on conclusions they draw based on a wide cross-section of a target community
When a British Petroleum (BP)-owned oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, 2010, more than 4.9 million barrels of crude oil spilled, polluting more than 68,000 square miles of the United States’ Gulf coast.
Since then, the ability to review medical records on a large scale has proved to be critical in assessing the collective impact the spill had on regional health, both for cleanup workers and for residents of the affected coastal areas. Tens of thousands of workers and volunteers took part in cleanup efforts; today, healthcare professionals’ broad understanding of the health fallout from the spill has allowed them to more accurately discern ailments that have become common in the region. That allowed doctors to slash the time required for diagnosis and to more quickly administer care.

3. Data analytics expands the range of treatment options that healthcare
providers can offer
According to Mohamed Khalifa of Macquarie University in Sydney Australia and Ibrahim Zabani of King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, “The success of prescriptive analytics depends mainly on the adoption of five basic elements; utilizing hybrid data, including both structured and unstructured data types, integrating predictions and prescriptions, taking into account all possible side effects, using adaptive algorithms that can be tailored easily to each situation in addition to the importance of robust and reliable feedback mechanisms.”
With access to a comprehensive data set showing the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of treatment options, doctors are better equipped to advise patients, to offer treatment plans that are likely to succeed and to implement them quickly.

4. Telemedicine
If there is one thing the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, it is the range of possibilities that come with remote communications technologies — and that includes medicine. Since the onset of the pandemic, online doctor visits have skyrocketed, with video consultations jumping from 32% in 2019 to 43% in 2020, according to researchers at Stanford University.
Furthermore, the researchers say data analytics expand the basket of services that can be offered remotely, allowing doctors to control robots from afar to perform surgery while simultaneously being able to monitor the patient’s vital signs in real-time and to anticipate complications before they develop.

Ask a retired doctor, someone who entered the profession in the 1950s or 60s, about the
use of data analysis in medicine and they may well respond with a shrug or a roll of the
eyes. Before the age of big data, widespread specialization and extensive diagnostic testing
tools doctors simply had to “know” how to examine a patient and formulate a diagnosis.
Many doctors long for the era when practicing medicine was a combination of hard science,
bedside manner, listening skills and empathy — in short, the multi-faceted art of patient care.
The artistry may indeed have gone out of medicine, but the ability to analyze data also
presents several important benefits for modern doctors, and therefore for patient care. Here
are just four examples.
1. Doctors can look at family history when devising a treatment plan
Once upon a time, patients had to keep hard copies of their records if they wanted to
preserve the data they contained. Compiling a comprehensive family medical history
required focused effort on the part of all family members, and would have demanded
a large space to store x-rays, MRI scans, growth charts more.
Today, easy storage and access to data alleviates the need to keep and store
physical records, and gives medical professionals a comprehensive view of relevant
information about all family members. As a result, the compiled data adds depth to a
patient’s medical file, which in turn allows the medical practitioner to draft a unique
treatment plan to suit the needs of each individual.
2. Public health officials can draft healthcare policy based on conclusions they
draw based on a wide cross-section of a target community
When a British Petroleum (BP)-owned oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April,
2010, more than 4.9 million barrels of crude oil spilled, polluting more than 68,000
square miles of the United States’ Gulf coast.
Since then, the ability to review medical records on a large scale has proved to be
critical in assessing the collective impact the spill had on regional health, both for
cleanup workers and for residents of the affected coastal areas. Tens of thousands of
workers and volunteers took part in cleanup efforts; today, healthcare professionals’
broad understanding of the health fallout from the spill has allowed them to more
accurately discern ailments that have become common in the region. That allowed
doctors to slash the time required for diagnosis and to more quickly administer care.
3. Data analytics expands the range of treatment options that healthcare
providers can offer
According to Mohamed Khalifa of Macquarie University in Sydney Australia and
Ibrahim Zabani of King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia, “The success of prescriptive analytics depends mainly on the adoption of five
basic elements; utilizing hybrid data, including both structured and unstructured data
types, integrating predictions and prescriptions, taking into account all possible side
effects, using adaptive algorithms that can be tailored easily to each situation in
addition to the importance of robust and reliable feedback mechanisms.”
With access to a comprehensive data set showing the benefits and drawbacks of a
variety of treatment options, doctors are better equipped to advise patients, to offer
treatment plans that are likely to succeed and to implement them quickly.

4. Telemedicine
If there is one thing the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, it is the range of
possibilities that come with remote communications technologies — and that includes
medicine.
Since the onset of the pandemic, online doctor visits have skyrocketed, with video
consultations jumping from 32% in 2019 to 43% in 2020, according to researchers at
Stanford University.
Furthermore, the researchers say data analytics expand the basket of services that
can be offered remotely, allowing doctors to control robots from afar to perform
surgery while simultaneously being able to monitor the patient’s vital signs in real-
time and to anticipate complications before they develop.

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Christopher Ridgeway

Christopher Ridgeway is the founder and CEO of Stone Clinical Laboratories. Find out more about him at https://christopher-ridgeway.com/