Well, Apple is going to battle the FBI in order to protect your information, but who is actively looking for your information to use it? The answer is someone you probably see every single day – your employer. Big data firms are capitalizing on the wealth of information that is available about employees, which can tell employers when an employee is going to get sick. The data is not just based on what medications they are taking or past medical histories. According to the Nasdaq blog, how people shop and even their voting habits can predict their health habits and risks.
How are companies using this data? Well, corporations like Wal-Mart take the information and send employees targeted information that could be helpful for them to help the company cut costs in the area of health care by implementing preventative programs and giving preventative information. Those who work in big data are convinced that your shopping habits and food choices are better predictors of your health than studying your human genome.
Some of the findings of these big data firms makes a lot of sense. People who shop at a bike store are healthier than those who shop at the video game shop. However, some of the things aren’t that common sense. People who vote in mid-term elections tend to be healthier as well. Some people predict it’s because they can get around easier and have the time to spare to go vote in election years that aren’t as important.
The one issue with this kind of data analysis is that usually there are strong blocks which prevent employers from knowing your health information. So, there are risks when employers use these techniques to try and cut costs. However, these third party firms typically don’t tell employers which ones are the ones at risk for costly procedures and illnesses, they simply implement prevention programs that try to cut costs overall, and keep it anonymous to the employer.
In a way, this unique use of big data is valuable because it not only helps companies save some money, but it also helps people become healthier by giving them more health options and letting them know when they are at risk for certain conditions.
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