Data integration as the next big thing for startups?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

Maternity Neighborhood is attempting to aggregate and unify disparate data sets relating to maternity:

Maybe you are a researcher…
We care a lot about you. We know that improved maternity care can only be a reality for everyone when we can have access to quality data. Collection, validation and linking of maternity data sets is what our platform does. We can receive data from multiple sources, included patients, and help standardize and shape the data into something so useful and relevant, you’re going to want to wear it!

This summer I worked for a startup called LaunchOpen which focused on pulling in data from multiple sources related to students. Because K-12 education in the USA has become a chaotic mix of data silos, LaunchOpen has an exciting opportunity in front of it. And I suspect Maternity Neighborhood does too. Over the last 20 years our society has gotten better and better at gathering data, but all that data lives in silos. Liberating that data from the silos and pulling it into unified formats is the next big challenge.

In a different post at Maternity Neighborhood, Amy Romano writes:

We’ve been thinking a lot about how standards and data can help us create a unified view of what a healthy mother and baby look like, and for that matter what healthy birth looks like. We all know a healthy birth when we see it, but how can we improve birth if we don’t have a measurable standard of “healthy” and don’t know what kind of care most reliably achieves this standard? Is the absence of illness or injury enough? Of course that is a necessary part of a healthy birth, but could being healthy also encompass how a woman feels, how prepared and supported she is to take on motherhood, how her birth impacts her postpartum recovery, how ready she is to care for her baby? And can we measure these things in a way that can help the system organize and deliver care better?

One thing is for sure: we can’t measure these things without asking women themselves how they’re doing. Any measure of quality that relies only on clinical data is a partial measure of quality, at best. That’s why we feel so strongly that technology should connect the clinical data with data reported from women, to get a fuller picture of what healthy looks like. Our Strong Start project with the American Association of Birth Centers provides the opportunity to test this approach and combine data from the maternity record and from patient surveys in a common database.

It is exactly the lack of standards that traps the data in silos and makes it difficult to integrate. Data munging ends up being the largest and most tedious aspect of working with Big Data. Technologies such as Kafka and Storm are helping unify data within corporations, but the more important task is unifying the data between corporations and organizations and government agencies.