IBM, Georgia Tech Point Data Modeling At Kids Health

Project seeks to identify factors contributing to health outcomes of pediatric patients with asthma, autism, and diabetes.
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IBM and the Georgia Institute of Technology are launching a new data analysis and scientific modeling project to study the impact of socioeconomic status, education, transportation, and other factors on the health of kids in Georgia with diabetes, autism, and asthma.

The study, which also involves partnerships with Emory University, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Cancer Coalition, and the Georgia Department of Community Health, also plans to examine how current fee-for-service models of payment to healthcare providers in the United States might be transformed so that clinicians can better align time and care with treatments that show the best outcomes and cost effectiveness.

The project, dubbed "One Million Healthy Children," or 1MHC, will utilize techniques from IBM's services research portfolio to model economic, incentive, treatment, disease, and other factors that affect healthcare decisions. A goal is to identify practices and policies that shift the usual focus of pediatric care from disease treatment to disease prevention and long-term wellness.

For the project, Georgia Tech and the other partners will provide de-identified structured and unstructured data that IBM will help "bring together for analysis and modeling," said IBM VP of innovation Bernie Meyerson in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. Data that will be analyzed includes e-health records, doctor notes, medical imaging, and many other types of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources, said Meyerson.

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IBM is donating software and hardware to the research project, through the IBM Academic Initiative, including DB2 for data storage, and SPSS and Cognos products for data analytics, as well as computational resources, said Meyerson.

The aim is to uncover factors that contribute to the health and outcomes of children in Georgia suffering from asthma, autism or diabetes.

For instance, through data analysis on the million or so patients, it might be possible to discover new correlations of variables that contribute to the health of these children. Possible variables could range from environmental factors in the neighborhoods where kids live, to limitations in their ability to seek preventative care due to difficulties in using public transportation.

"We'll build models to see connections with any factors," including examining variables that today might not be considered relevant in the outcome and wellness of children with specific conditions, said Meyerson. Those findings might be important discoveries for children beyond the Georgia population being studied.

Tens of thousands of pediatric patients in Georgia have autism, diabetes, and/or asthma.

Over the last decade, the Center for Health Transformation reported increasing cases of Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. The center found that in Georgia, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death, while the cost of associated medical care, lost productivity, and premature death is over $4 billion a year.

Meanwhile, in 2010, the highest rate of emergency room visits by children in Georgia was asthma related, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health, which also found that Georgia’s autism rates are rising faster than the national average.

Although IBM's Watson technology is being applied in other areas of healthcare, Watson, for now, is not part of the 1MHC project, said Meyerson.