A massive, ever-present torrent of data impacts healthcare in many ways. Hospitals create electronic medical records (EMR); labs, doctors’ offices, and insurance companies collect health and demographic data; and patients provide information through numerous forms, apps and sites.Doctors use specific information to determine treatment options and procedures, but very little is connected to other, possibly related information. It is as if knowing a car has had a bent axle replaced could not indicate its wheels need aligning.Eric Lefkofsky, a serial entrepreneur, is working to change this situation.
When doctors treated his wife for fighting breast cancer, he realized they had limited access to useful data to help decide her treatment. As a venture capitalist, Mr. Lefkofsky also realized that many companies have a better supply of information for their business decisions. Truck drivers have a better view of data affecting their jobs than oncologists.Missing from the equation was context.For example, promising breast cancer drug Herceptin emerged from clinical trials with a 60% success rate. Clinicians, however, found it impossible to answer important questions. “What is the difference between women who respond to treatment and those who do not? What other drugs are they taking? What are their non-cancer diagnoses?”Answering these questions would require a special grant, a researcher, and at least 90 days of work.Mr. Lefkofsky believed these should be easy questions. So he started a new company, Tempus.
Tempus combines information drawn from EMRs, clinical data from tests and procedures, and genetic sequencing. It applies the latest advances in machine learning to discover new patterns and relationships, yielding a full picture of patient health and conditions.These patterns start to answer the question of why treatment works for one person and not another.Eric Lefkofsky is an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is a principal of the venture capital firm Lightbank, and the founder of Groupon, Tempus and others.A graduate of the University of Michigan, he is one of the billionaires who has signed a Giving Pledge, dedicating more than half his wealth to philanthropy.