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Wuwei shows benefits, pitfalls of open health data

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health dataLaunching in September, a new platform called Wuwei will allow users to log their health data anonymously, compare their symptoms with other users and reach out to doctors for expert advice.

Patients can use Wuwei privately or exclusively with their doctors. They can also choose to open their data anonymously to the rest of the community. Machine learning vets anonymous user data to ensure that the information available is reliable.

Users can communicate anonymously to one another and create medical polls to ask members with similar symptoms or diagnoses to vote on the most effective way forward.

“Fyodor Minakov came up with Wuwei after being diagnosed with a health issue by his doctor,” Adam Waksman, a technical adviser for Wuwei, told Power More.

The problem was, he wanted more information than existing websites and doctors could offer him, according to Waksman.

Websites such as WebMD currently gather health data, but Wuwei serves as both a repository for information and a way for doctors to reach patients.

Health information websites are in demand; the majority of Internet users, 72 percent, said they looked online for health information in 2012, according to a Pew study.

How communication benefits all users

Wuwei allows doctors to monitor and compare treatment methods, so they get a sense of how a medication affects multiple users on an aggregate level. When a patient starts a new medication and asks anonymously how others reacted, a doctor can answer based on how patients responded, Waksman explained.

Although these communication methods are beneficial to doctors and patients, Wuwei was not created to replace in-person or virtual doctor visits, Waksman noted.

“The website does not in any way replace a doctor, nor would we discourage anyone from going to a doctor,” he said.

And while Wuwei has potential as a new platform for open-source data, there are concerns about keeping user data secure and whether all information on the website is accurate.

Will users share their data?

Major data breaches over the past year resulted in scrutiny about how health care companies secure sensitive information, but it appears many Americans are less concerned about sharing their health data. According to an NPR-Truven Health Analytics poll with 3,000 participants, 53 percent of respondents say they’d be comfortable sharing their health information anonymously.

Still, Wuwei will employ standard cloud security measures. And while no website is entirely safe from breaches, Waksman says he’s not worried because of the voluntary nature of Wuwei.

“We will not be accepting any medical records or other medical documents, so the type of data we will have will be anonymized data provided voluntarily by users,” Waksman explained.

Wuwei’s data scientists are still finalizing how the analytical side of the service will run, but ultimately, the tool will provide patients and doctors with relevant information and a means to share data so that others are not alone in their quest for more information on a given health topic.


Norman Rozenberg

Norman Rozenberg

Norman Rozenberg, based in the New York metro area, keeps up with the dynamic world of development, innovation and public health. He has also contributed to Txchnologist, an online technology magazine.

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