It’s just not cricket

by Mark Sales | Feb 26, 2016

Cricket, a game invented by the English and played almost exclusively to a high level (test level) by members of the British Commonwealth, a sport in which a match can last five days and be a thrilling draw and one which has a player position called “silly mid off” and a specialist ball called a “googly.”

One thing this absurd-to-many sport bases its very founding principles on is sportsmanship and playing by the rules. Batsmen give themselves out and walk off the pitch if they know that they hit the ball and the umpire missed it, and the term “It’s just not cricket” refers to a situation when someone doesn’t play by the rules, whether unwritten of in the book.

But what has cricket got to do with healthcare? Cricket is probably one of the origins of Big Data. Fans are obsessed with statistics; for example, a test match will have roughly 90 overs (sets of six balls) per day for five days, or 2,700 balls bowled by 12 bowlers and defended or attacked by 22 batsmen each with a categorised style and approach for every shot. The numbers get mesmerising, but compare this to the number of people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or hypertension on the planet – or even in the cricket-playing countries – and we start playing in a different league of data.

My personal view (which I am more than happy to be shot down) is that we have played at the edge of patient (and consumers who are at risk of becoming patients) data for far too long. We need to break down some of the barriers and start combining some of the big datasets that are available for the good of humanity. It is a fine balancing act between convincing those with a commercial interest against the greater good. Especially when it comes to privacy.

Imagine a world where everyone agrees to throw their (potentially named) data into a big “for the good of humanity” bucket and we get everything from shopping habits, browsing,  exercise, medical records, 23andme and more for which we can overlay disease risk profiles.

I know I am talking about utopia, and I am very aware of the risks and commercial scariness of such a thing. But let’s at least get this on the table. As Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest cricketers ever to grace the field, said, “And that is the reason why victory is so great, because different players all made their contribution."

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