Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden let us in on the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) knows more about us than we ever knew.

It appears the NSA monitors all of our phone calls and data networks (any of you use email?).

In defense, both the Obama Administration and government spymasters were quick to point out that the NSA doesn’t actually listen to the content of our calls (though they can and do if we are under suspicion), they merely look at something called MetaData: A giant list of the phone calls, as in, “Who’s calling whom?” and what the calling trends are.emergency_wide-957b55a1b36bb357abff1ee104a1ed70059f29c2-s40-c85

MetaData: defined as “data about data.”

Now take this concept and flip over to my world, Medicine.

I’m fortunate enough to have become part of a pilot program in my primary care practice in which payors (insurance companies) pay us an upfront fee per patient each month to coordinate care and work on prevention.

In order to do this in a systematic fashion, my team needs [you guessed it!] data.

Now each month we are provided data on our patients and how many of them visit hospitals–whether the emergency departments, or the inpatient wards. Our data also includes information on our patients discharged from the hospital: How quickly do we see them in follow up? How well do we coordinate their care? How often, we need to know, do they wind up back in the hospital, i.e. “re-admitted?”

We track and trend the data from month to month, so that we can make targeted interventions. It’s all part of a process called hotspotting.

Take a look at one example of “MetaMedicine” in action: the story of a patient I care for named Ted (identifying details changed). It’s just been posted on the NPR Shots blog, which you can find by clicking here. [You can also click on the picture on this post, if you’re a visual clicker.]

If you like it, share it!