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Hidden in the Data

Electronic medical records hold a vast quantity of data collected during routine care visits and are starting to provide researchers a way to make connections between seemingly disparate data points, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For instance, the Journal's Amy Dockser Marcus notes that Kenneth Mandl of Boston Children's Hospital were able to make a connection between autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis and increased epilepsy risk.

Such mining of big data, she adds, is being facilitated by efforts at the US National Institutes of Health, particularly ones aimed at protecting patient privacy and standardizing data gleaned from various sources.

It also is enabling the testing of various new ideas and hypothesis. "It gives you data over time on millions and millions of patients," Mandl says.