Infoscience

Journal article

Digital Pharmacovigilance and Disease Surveillance: Combining Traditional and Big-Data Systems for Better Public Health

The digital revolution has contributed to very large data sets (ie, big data) relevant for public health. The two major data sources are electronic health records from traditional health systems and patient-generated data. As the two data sources have complementary strengths-high veracity in the data from traditional sources and high velocity and variety in patient-generated data-they can be combined to build more-robust public health systems. However, they also have unique challenges. Patient-generated data in particular are often completely unstructured and highly context dependent, posing essentially a machine-learning challenge. Some recent examples from infectious disease surveillance and adverse drug event monitoring demonstrate that the technical challenges can be solved. Despite these advances, the problem of verification remains, and unless traditional and digital epidemiologic approaches are combined, these data sources will be constrained by their intrinsic limits.

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