Oracle Working To Help Customize Health Care In Thailand - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management

Oracle Working To Help Customize Health Care In Thailand

Research project will collect clinical and genetic patient data for developing treatments tailored for individuals.

The United States isn't the only country that's pushing to make better use of IT to improve healthcare. Oracle is working with the government of Thailand in a clinical research data project that aims to ultimately help deliver "personalized" healthcare for Thai citizens.

The Thai government's new Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences' (TCELS) Pharmacogenomics Project is a collaboration with Oracle to gather patient clinical and genetic data for research projects that could aid in the development of drugs and other treatments that are tailored for individual patients based on their genomic characteristics.

Potentially, the project "could touch Thailand's 60 million citizens," says Dr. Tom Jones, M.D., Oracle VP and chief medical officer. Oracle and Thailand signed the deal in January, but the project was formally kicked off this week, says Jones. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

The study of pharmacogenomics explores how a person's genetic makeup affects an individual's response to medications. For instance, a pharmacogenomics project might examine how Thai women of a specific age, carrying specific genetic markers and other clinical profile characteristics, respond to new breast cancer treatments compared to other drugs, says Jones. These discoveries could aid physicians in making better treatment decisions for individual patients.

As part of the project, staff from Oracle, the Thai government, and Thai private and public hospitals and universities will work together in developing a large-scale database of "unified electronic health records," based on Oracle technologies, including Oracle Database 10g, a relational database designed for grid computing. As the project gets larger and clinical data from other additional sources is collected, the database will scale in size, says Jones.

Pharmaceutical and other biotech companies could enter "service level agreements" with the TCELS to use data " minus personally identifiable information " in the research and development of new drug treatments, as well as use the data to more quickly identify subsets of potential patients for clinical trials, says Jones.

The first significant amount of data for use in research projects will likely be available in 24 to 36 months, says Jones.

The infrastructure and database being developed for the project could also potentially help Thailand's public health officials and epidemiologists better manage outbreaks of disease such as SARS, as well as new disease outbreaks, says Jones.

Many large Thai hospitals and medical groups already use electronic health records and other electronic clinical systems in the care of patients, says Jones. "The Thai government makes sure that clinical information created is that which lends itself well to clinical data-mining," says Jones.

Over the last two years, several large healthcare providers in the U.S. have begun similar IT and research projects involving the data mining of clinical data in an effort to develop better, more personalized health-care treatments and discoveries. For instance, IBM has a number of recent pacts with U.S. medical centers, including the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers, which involve clinical data mining research.

Also, over the last 18 months, the U.S. government has been pushing for American health care providers, including hospitals and doctors, to adopt information technologies such as electronic health record systems and bedside bar-coded medication safety systems to help reduce medical errors and costs. Last year, President Bush set a goal for most Americans to have electronic health records by 2014.

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