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Big Data Hits Medical Schools

Students at New York University School of Medicine are being thrown into the deep end of big data, NPR reports.

During their first two years, medical students there have to do a "healthcare by the numbers project," it says. For this, students are given access to a database of some 5 million anonymous records, or data on every hospital patient in the state from the preceding two years.

This effort, dubbed Lacidem Care Group, is partially funded by the American Medical Association in a bid to change how students are taught, NPR adds.

For their projects, the students use analytical tools to examine "quality measures for things like heart failure, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure, and drill down and look at the performance of the practice as a whole, and [the performance of] individual doctors," Marc Triola, an associate dean for educational informatics at NYU.

One pair of students, for instance, examined the cost of hip replacements in different parts of the state, while another pair studied the rates of C-sections around the state.

"With literally millions of records, these in-class student projects often involved more patients than the published literature," Triola says. "It's incredible."

NPR notes that this ability to sift through data is increasingly becoming a critical part of the practice of medicine.