Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), one of Harvard Medical School's teaching hospitals, has a long history of IT innovation. The latest addition to the family is a medical informatics platform called Clinical Query. John Halamka, BIDMC's CIO, refers to it as a clinical trials/clinical research business intelligence system. It's a search engine married to a huge database of patient records that lets hospital employees test hypotheses about what causes a disease, or test which drug, diet, or lifestyle variables may reduce the risk of developing one.
The repository contains 200 million data points on 2.2 million patients, including medications taken, diagnoses, and lab values. The query tool is capable of navigating 20,000 medical concepts through the use of Boolean expressions. All the data has been mapped to standard medical language codes.
With the help of Clinical Query, a clinician or researcher might search the records to find out how many patients with breast cancer also take ACE inhibitors, a class of drug used to treat high blood pressure. If the results reveal a strong correlation between the drug and the malignancy, the hospital could do a deeper analysis and set up a formal research project to investigate the link. The ultimate goal is to discover a new medical intervention that would improve the survival of the entire population of breast cancer patients.
Access to Clinical Query, as well as to the other clinical apps in the BIDMC system, is simplicity itself. A single sign-on protocol gives physicians access to 146 clinical apps--including an order entry app, a performance manager governing safety and quality, an emergency department dashboard, PeopleSoft ERP, and thousands of professional journals--as well as the 2 million-plus patient records. Other employees, and students, get a set of sign-on rights depending on their role in the organization.