SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Korea Bizwire) – Although the majority of the public may mostly associate big data with marketing and business strategies, a recent Korean government endeavor has offered another perspective of big data, making use of the technology to track down hospitals that may be linked to mass hepatitis C infections.
Hepatitis C is also referred to as the ‘silent killer’, with its ability to remain dormant for years before finally showing symptoms. About 30 percent of those with hepatitis C will develop hepatic cirrhosis if left untreated, half of which might further develop liver cancer.
Health authorities say that they were able to confirm that Wonju’s Hanyang Orthopedic Clinic and Seoul’s Hyundai Clinic were the health care facilities responsible for the spread of an infection of hepatitis C via needle injections, using big data.
In the case of Hyundai Clinic (no relationship with Hyundai Group or Hyundai Motor Group), which was confirmed last month, the official investigation began with an unconfirmed civilian report that the hospital was reusing its needles.
To confirm the report, authorities used big data. If the particular clinic in fact did reuse its needles, the prevalence rates for blood-transferred diseases, like hepatitis C, would likely be higher.
The big data investigation launched by government authorities revealed that the antibody-positive rate of Hyundai Clinic patients in 2012 and 2013 was 13.2 percent to 17.7 percent, up to 30 times higher than the national average.
Based on the data, the Ministry of Health & Welfare conducted a field investigation of Hyundai Clinic, which led to its discovery that the hospital was the source of a mass hepatitis C infection.
“It’s not just about comparing the number of hepatitis C patients,” said a ministry official. “We arrived at our conclusion through additional analysis of other data, such as whether they reused their needles.”
Yet, there are setbacks to this method.
Using a similar big data analysis, the ministry was recently able to track down the 203 patients infected with hepatitis C that visited another clinic in Sunchang County. But this time, the authorities used the analysis to discover a hospital that may have transferred the disease, not to confirm the credibility of a public report.
However, although it was true the hospital had treated many patients with hepatitis C, authorities weren’t able to find conclusive evidence that the hospital was the source of the disease. And if an epidemiological investigation finds that the Sunchang patients were actually infected elsewhere, big data will have incorrectly labelled an innocent clinic as a the source of a frightening contagion.
This is where field investigation comes in. The ministry found that the hospital was using unregulated antiseptic solution when sterilizing its endoscope equipment. And although this particular lead is not enough to prove a direct link to hepatitis C infection, authorities will again turn to big data for a solution.
“If there’s a higher prevalence rate of hepatitis C among patients who encountered the equipment as part of medical treatment, it’ll indicate that there’s a problem with the endoscope,” said an official from the KCDC (Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). “We will be confirming this when we conduct our epidemiological investigation.”
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)