By Mark Winegar on Fri, 02/01/2013
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” - Aldous Huxley
I took a research class when I began graduate school so I could begin my master’s thesis as early as possible. One of the concepts that stuck with me was the importance of sample size. The larger your sample data set is the better your findings will be.
Medicine is a major area of research. There are three general types of research performed. In vivo research is performed on living subjects; you and me. In vitro research is perform in labs with glass test tubes. In silico research is performed with computers. Each has its benefits and limitations but in silico has become more prominent in recent years.
Our physicians keep medical records on each of us. This information actually belongs to us but most of us don’t even know it exists. Unfortunately, it is not shared well within the medical community which is why so many patients have unnecessary tests done when going from one doctor to another. More open sharing of this data between physcians can reduce the cost of medical care.
Making this data available within a national or international database would not only improve medical care but also medical research. Researchers could have more confidence in their findings and perhaps identify treatments more quickly.
“I'm proposing … that we reach into our bodies and we grab the genotype, and we reach into the medical system and we grab our records, and we use it to build something together.” (John Wilbanks)
“In analysis we break information into parts ..., make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations.”
Here is a sample of questions you might ask to guide analysis. How many different kinds of medical records are kept and where are they stored? How do they relate to each other? How are they shared by medical practitioners? What are the barriers to more open sharing of medical records between physicians? What are the potential benefits of open sharing? What are the risks?
“Synthesis involves compiling information in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions.”
Once students understand the complexities of the issue you can ask, “How can medical information be made more available to provide better heath care while maintaining the privacy of individual patients?”.
“Evaluation occurs when we present and defend opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria.”
Each level of higher order thinking becomes progressively more difficult. Here is an evaluative question you might ask, “What level of government ought to oversee medical data, the states or the federal government?”.
Students can complete this project with their iPads. Use Safari and Google to research the topic. Presentation slides, if desired, can be created using Keynote. Video presentations can be recorded using Camera. Pages is a great tool for writing papers. All of these apps are either installed on you iOS device at the factory or are available at the Apple Apps Store.