There is no doubt that we have become a data driven world. Few days go by without mention of this—“metrics,” “big data,” “analytics,” and “precision medicine” are all words that I read or hear almost every day. It is also well known that we are generating data at exponential rates—and at all levels, including personal, corporate, institution, and governmental. While scary to some, there is tremendous potential in harnessing this data to improve areas such as security, education, healthcare, and our business decisions, among many others. Of course, there are real and significant security and privacy concerns that come along with big data that must be addressed.
If you think about it, you probably started using metrics and data in your practices long ago. For example, I am sure you look at the productivity of your workforce. You probably also track trends in your business decisions, such as the frames you select for display to your patients. You even use these data trends to implement evidence-based practices into your healthcare delivery. For instance, dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction were not on many practitioners’ radars 20 years ago, but today, not only are new management and treatment options being introduced almost every time we turn around, we are also seeing entire specialty clinics built around these oh-so-frequent conditions.
While all of these trends are no doubt the way of the future, I think it remains important to remember that the patients in front of us each day are individual human beings from diverse backgrounds who have emotions and feelings. It is important to remember to practice compassion and empathy, which is, in the words of renowned Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another”—characteristics that, to my knowledge, big data still can’t predict or practice.