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Univ. North Carolina, IBM Team Up For Research, Personalized Care

Integration with IBM's technologies is expected to improve treatment of patients with diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.
While many health care providers in the United States are just now considering rolling out electronic medical record systems, the University of North Carolina Health Care System is on its way with the help of IBM.

The university said this week that it's using data from its e-medical record and other clinical systems to provide improved quality of care for patients now, and more personalized treatments in the future.

UNC Health Care, the University of North Carolina's nonprofit, state-owned integrated health care system, is expanding its use of IBM InfoSphere, WebSphere, and Health Integration Framework technologies to improve research and treatment of patients with diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.

IBM and UNC Health Care have been working together over the last two years to create a data warehouse that brings together several dozen sources of data, including information from UNC Health Care's e-medical record database, registration and insurance systems, nursing notes, and other clinical data.

By combining the data, UNC Health Care's doctors in the near term will be able to analyze and access data for improved disease management of pre-diabetic and diabetic patients based on current standards of quality care. In the longer term, the aim is to provide more personalized care to these patients, based individual risk factors, genetics, demographics, and other profile data.

"Our eye looking into the future is on providing more personalized medicine," said Dr. Don Spencer, a practicing physician and associate director of medical informatics at UNC Health Care. "In the nearer term, our eye is on the different standards of good diabetic care and how patients are receiving that." That includes ensuring that pre-diabetic patients are provided with treatments that can help prevent the development of full-blown diabetes, as well as giving diabetic patients regular eye, foot, and other care to prevent complication of their disease.

In the future, the system could allow UNC Health Care doctors to access and analyze research and other data that provides information about the best treatments available for diabetic patients with specific genetic characteristics, medical history, and more individualized needs. "I don't want to oversell this, but those are goals," Spencer said. Besides improving quality of care, the effort is also focused on enhancing research by providing UNC researchers with Web-based data analysis, reporting, and business intelligence tools for speeding up the development of new treatments, as well as the workflow involved with preparatory research to regulatory approval.

Research queries that in the past took weeks to perform can be accomplished in seconds, said John Soyring, IBM's VP of solutions and software. IBM has been working with a number of other large medical centers and researchers, including the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, for data warehouse and data analysis initiatives in the quest for improved patient care and personalized medicine.

UNC Health Care has been using in-patient and ambulatory care e-medical record systems for several years, said Spencer. Those systems were developed using internal and external consultants, as well as IBM infrastructure and data base technologies, he said.

In addition to research and care related to diabetes, the extended joint work between UNC Health Care and IBM will focus on cancer and cystic fibrosis.

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