Appl Clin Inform 2018; 09(03): 503-506
DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1666799
Invited Editorial
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Samantha Adams Festschrift: Keeping Close Tabs—In Memoriam Samantha Adams

Anthony Solomonides
1  NorthShore University HealthSystem Research Institute, Evanston, Illinois, United States
› Author Affiliations
Funding Anthony Solomonides has been partially funded by a grant from ThermoFisher for a project to characterize the asthmatic population at his institution.
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
03 July 2018 (online)


I had the opportunity to share a platform with Sam Adams twice, once at an American Medical Informatics Association panel and also once in London, at the European Centre for Ethics, Law and Governance in Health Information Technology. In 2014, we had agreed to speak on aspects of the “commodification” of patient information. In the abstract for my contribution I had written:

Much of the discussion of “commodification” of patient—and more generally, personal—data revolves around the use that those who gather data on a large scale make of this wealth of information, or more precisely, about the ways they turn data, often of uneven quality but in large volumes, into information with intrinsic value. […]

In healthcare, analytics has been applied to service improvement in hospitals and other provider organizations. The large-scale distributed research data repositories currently envisioned by such projects as the PCORI Clinical Data Research Networks, are expected to bring value to healthcare delivery through comparative effectiveness research (CER) and patient-reported outcomes. In due course, it is anticipated that industry, including pharma, will be able to mine these to identify optimal care pathways, to accelerate drug development, to rationalize services, and to manage public health.

A more intimate example lies in the concept of Microsoft's HealthVault, which, at least at one time, had ambitions to join up all the commonly collected health-related information about a person (under the individual's control, so it was said) from the content of their shopping basket (courtesy of their supermarket loyalty card), to their daily exercise levels (through wearables or gym machines), to their relationship with their healthcare provider (numbers and kinds of visits, prescriptions, etc.). On hearing this from a Microsoft executive at a 2008 conference, I wondered if my mobile phone would soon be delivering messages about the inadvisability of chocolate, given my BMI, just as I was reaching into the shelf in the store.

Sam told me that she read this on the flight over to the United States from the Netherlands and had startled her neighbor on the plane by laughing out loud. This is the kind of bittersweet example of the possible uses of context-sensitive, ubiquitous technology in health care that we both found fascinating, often confusing, and sometimes alarming.