Big Data in Healthcare – Defining the Digital Persona through User Contexts from the Micro to the Macro

Journal: IMIA Yearbook
ISSN: 0943-4747

Big Data - Smart Health Strategies

Issue: 2014: IMIA Yearbook 2014
Pages: 82-89

Big Data in Healthcare – Defining the Digital Persona through User Contexts from the Micro to the Macro

Contribution of the IMIA Organizational and Social Issues WG

Section 2: Human Factors and Organizational Issues

Working Group Contributions

C. E. Kuziemsky (1), H. Monkman (2), C. Petersen (3), J. Weber (4), E. M. Borycki (2), S. Adams (5), S. Collins (6)

(1) Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada; (2) School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada; (3) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; (4) Department of Computer Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada; (5) Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands; (6) Partners eCare, Partners Healthcare Systems, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA


Context, Big data, organizational and social issues, digital persona, patient-engaged healthcare delivery


Objectives: While big data offers enormous potential for improving healthcare delivery, many of the existing claims concerning big data in healthcare are based on anecdotal reports and theoretical vision papers, rather than scientific evidence based on empirical research. Historically, the implementation of health information technology has resulted in unintended consequences at the individual, organizational and social levels, but these unintended consequences of collecting data have remained unaddressed in the literature on big data. The objective of this paper is to provide insights into big data from the perspective of people, social and organizational considerations. Method: We draw upon the concept of persona to define the digital persona as the intersection of data, tasks and context for different user groups. We then describe how the digital persona can serve as a framework to understanding sociotechnical considerations of big data implementation. We then discuss the digital persona in the context of micro, meso and macro user groups across the 3 Vs of big data. Results: We provide insights into the potential benefits and challenges of applying big data approaches to healthcare as well as how to position these approaches to achieve health system objectives such as patient safety or patient-engaged care delivery. We also provide a framework for defining the digital persona at a micro, meso and macro level to help understand the user contexts of big data solutions. Conclusion: While big data provides great potential for improving healthcare delivery, it is essential that we consider the individual, social and organizational contexts of data use when implementing big data solutions.

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