The computer age has brought about the rapid generation of large amounts of easily accessible data from variable, quickly developing, digital and non-digital sources, often referred to as “big data”. Big data has immense, yet so far hardly utilised potential to improve almost all areas of human life, including health. Whether this potential can be exploited depends on the sophistication of methods and technologies available to process and use (make sense of) big data. Regardless of the frequently cited revolution of data-driven health care decision-making, there are still promises to be fulfilled. This is also true for Europe, where the fragmented legal landscape, and inconsistent public opinion inhibits the standardised collection of data, delaying or even diverting the implementation of data sharing agreements.
In the European Union (EU), the key health policy objectives are the strengthening of health system effectiveness, accessibility, resilience, quality and performance. However, health care systems in Europe face significant challenges due to the high incidence of chronic diseases, ageing populations, rising cost of new drugs and widely varying health outcomes across the region. Amid these challenges, the focused application of big data has thpotential to enable health care systems to effectively transform towards value-based health care.
The Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2), Europe’s largest public-private initiative (a joint undertaking between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations [EFPIA]), recognised this phenomenon through the recently launched Big Data for Better Outcomes (BD4BO) programme, which aims to catalyse and support the evolution towards outcomes-focused, sustainable health care systems in Europe. In order to reach its goal, it seeks to exploit the opportunities offered by big and deep data sources in a few representative disease areas, to put together a methodological framework to guide big data research and to invite a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the future of health systems shaped by big data.
Read the EuroHealth article Vol.23, No.1, 2017.