Big Data Collaboration Continues at MJB

The collaboration between the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) was strengthened this week by the arrival of Prof. Mendel Singer, Associate Professor in CWRU’s Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences.

Prof. Singer is serving as a Visiting Scholar at MJB, where he is exploring issues related to “big data” in the field of health care policy.  He is working closely with Dr. Bruce Rosen, Director of MJB’s Smokler Center for Health Care Policy and lead of the Institute’s Big Data Initiative, which is exploring the use of natural language processing and machine learning in MJB studies.

During the visit, Prof. Singer will meet with MJB’s partners in the health care sector, including senior officials at the Clalit and Maccabi health care plans.  “Israel’s health care system is a gold mine for researchers interested in big data,” Prof. Singer explained.  “There are 8 million people who are all connected to the four national health care plans, and who all have years of electronic health records stored in a standardized format.  Having such a large and rich data set offers analytical possibilities that are unimaginable in the fragmented health care system of the United States.”

As part of his stay at MJB, Prof. Singer offered a seminar for Institute researchers, titled, “Big Data Meets Public Health and Medicine in the USA: Opportunity and Challenge.”  He drew on his extensive experience in the fields of obesity, mental health, school and community health interventions, and cost-effectiveness analyses, to talk about the some of the best examples of health care-related big data studies.  For Prof. Singer, tools such as natural language processing are opening up new sources of qualitative and text data that researchers previously might have overlooked—thus expanding the opportunities to uncover new patterns and trends that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Beyond the links to MJB’s Big Data Initiative, Prof. Singer sees himself as an “ambassador for Case Western,” learning about MJB and searching for points of potential collaboration between the Institute and his colleagues back in Cleveland.  In this way, he is building on the relationships that were fostered during visits to Cleveland by Institute researchers earlier this year.  In May, MJB Executive Director Prof. Michael Hartal and Director of External Relations Dr. Keri Zelson Warshawsky spent two days meeting exploring potential collaborations with colleagues at CWRU, the Myers Foundation, and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.  A highlight of that visit was a webinar on big data and social policy, with presentations from both CWRU and Institute researchers.  As well, in October, MJB Research Associate Hadar Samuel visited CWRU to further discuss areas of commonality in the field of big data and health care policy research.