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Invited Commentary
September 2016

The Utility of “Big Data” and Social Media for Anticipating, Preventing, and Treating Disease

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(9):1030-1031. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.2287

Our new era of clinical practice is largely the consequence of profound advances in imaging, devices, and therapeutics. But 2 other developments, outside our traditional domain, are beginning to affect our ability to predict, prepare for, and treat disease: “big data” and social media. The influence that big data and social media have had has been mostly tentative to date, as we learn how best to deploy them. Big data encompasses the increasing ubiquity of electronic medical records (EMRs) and other data sources that are potentially linked via the internet, such as sales of over-the-counter medications and records of school absenteeism, that enable real-time syndromic surveillance of instances of disease. A wide variety of social media, from Google searches to Tweets, may reflect the occurrence of such instances of disease.