May 11

Achieving Personalized Healthcare from Big Data Analytics

by Wayne W. Oliver,  Executive Director, Patients for Fair Compensation
Originally published in Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 10, 2013

big dataFor years now, we have held on to the hope that health information technology (health IT) solutions would translate into better health outcomes. We have indeed seen signs that physicians and hospitals which deploy health IT solutions like electronic health records (EHRs) provide better care.

We have also hoped that the day of an interoperable platform would allow healthcare professionals and facilities to access individual patient’s health information. Some progress has been made in a couple of states in terms of creating a legitimate health information exchange (HIE). However, the process of building, implementing and sustaining an HIE needs accelerating in most states including Georgia.

But as data is gathered, stored and analyzed, we have new, emerging opportunities which have promise. The term “big data” has surfaced as a new buzzword in healthcare.

Data is growing and moving faster than healthcare organizations can consume it. Most medical data is unstructured but is very clinically relevant. This data resides in multiple places like individual EMRs, lab, pharmacy and imaging systems, physician notes, claims data, and finance. However, gaining access to big data in order drive clinical outcomes and utilize advanced healthcare analytics are critical to improving care, aligning incentives for patients and providers, and driving system-wide efficiencies.

Additionally, progressive healthcare organizations are leveraging big data technology to capture as much patient-specific information to get a more complete view for insight into care coordination and outcomes-based reimbursement models, population health management, and patient engagement strategies.

IBM has been on the forefront of creating big data technology solutions. Many of you may remember that IBM created a voice recognition, supercomputer named “Watson” (after IBM founder Thomas Watson).  Watson gained widespread notoriety two years ago by easily defeating two celebrated human champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!  Working with companies like WellPoint, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, GlaxoSmithKline, and Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, IBM is using a series of Watson-based technologies to help transform the quality and speed of care delivered to patients.

For example, researchers at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute are teaming with IBM to build a data-mining and analytics center. Emory is using the system to compare data from clinical trials of cancer patients with genetic data housed in public and private databases, in hope of devising innovative treatment plans for certain cancers that can be tailored to individual patient’s genetic profiles.

Bringing big data down to the individual patient level is exciting. And making personalized treatment plans for individual patients is the essence of personalized medicine.

Watson’s artificial intelligence was also well suited to help drug giant GlaxoSmithKline develop new medications. For example, Watson was able to sort through all of the available literature on malaria, research all known anti-malarial drugs and other known chemical compounds and suggest 15 new compounds as potential anti-malarial drugs. Big data technology solutions are really transforming healthcare.

IBM, WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have partnered to create an advanced clinical decision support system for oncologists.  WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers, clinicians and technology experts spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process, analyze and interpret the complex clinical information. So far, Watson has digested more than 600,000 unique pieces of medical information, two million pages of text from medical journals, and results from various clinical trials in oncology research. Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research.

The opportunity for clinicians, researchers, and healthcare professionals to design treatment plans based off of big data analytics is a significant breakthrough. Offering patient’s hope through personalized, evidence-based medicine is becoming a reality.

The Health Section of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG Health) is hosting an event on May 23 which will focus on big data and its applications. For more information on this event, click here.

By looking into the health data of millions of Americans and designing personalized treatment plans for individual patients which are specifically tailored for a unique patient is the future of medicine.

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