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Graph databases find answers for the sick and their healers

Joab Jackson | June 9, 2014
A novel form of database that focuses on connections between entities, called a graph database, is finding a home in the health care industry.

HealthUnlocked's user input is stored in a standard relational database, though the different connections between the entities that people discuss are stored on Neo4j. Neo4j provides "a much better way" of visualizing these connections, Trofymenko said.

In another medical use of the graph database, clinical diagnostics company GoodStart Genetics, specializing in inherited diseases, uses it to aggregate genetic carrier screening data from multiple sources, so it can be queried by scientists looking for signs of inherited diseases.

Life sciences analytics service Zephyr Health uses Neo4j to provide a query service for discovering new connections between data from multiple sources. The company found the database's flexibility and scalability to be instrumental in building its service.

Another user is Doximity, a professional network of over 300,000 U.S. physicians. Doximity uses the database as the basis of a recommendation service for the physicians, allowing them to contribute to and draw information from the service.

First developed in 2000, Neo4j is considered to be the most widely used graph database, though others exist in the market as well, such as GraphBase, HyperGraphDB, and Oracle Spatial and Graph.

Facebook has also built a graph database, called Tao, to map the connections across its 1.28 billion users. Social networks also seem to be a natural home for graph databases.

Neo released the latest version of the Neo4j database last month. It is available both in a free, downloadable, open-source community edition and a paid, supported edition with additional features.

 

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