Too Much of a Good Thing? How Clinicians Assess the Value of Health Data

Lecture / Panel
Open to the Public

Doctor with stethoscope


Kellie Owens

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Population Health,

Division of Medical Ethics, NYU Grossman School of Medicine


In modern medicine, health risks are often managed through the collection of health data and subsequent intervention. One of the goals of clinical genetics is to identify genetic predisposition to disease so that individuals can intervene to prevent potential harm. However, some clinicians have recently suggested that patients undergo less testing and monitoring to reduce overdiagnosis and overtreatment. For example, cardiovascular genetics has a high level of uncertainty, and leading cardiologists disagree about how to order and interpret these tests. In her research, Dr. Owens found considerable variability in how clinicians determine which types of genetic tests are appropriate for their patients and how they interpret test results. Many providers do not presume that more genetic data will lead to better care. Instead, increased genetic data can lead to confusion and inappropriate treatment. This re-valuation of the utility of medical data is crucial for bioethicists to explore, especially as medical fields are sorting through increasing amounts of data.

Dr. Owens received her PhD from the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, in 2017. During the last 2-years of her thesis work, she was a Predoctoral Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Subsequently, she became a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and held a position at the Data & Society Research Institute, a think/do tank dedicated to addressing social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development. In fall 2022, she joined NYU as an Assistant Professor, where her research is supported by an early career award from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She has won awards from the American Sociological Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Doctor with stethoscope
How clinicians assess the value and meaning of genetic data in cardiology