Analytics Paving the Way to Better Health Care

Detecting problems before they occur

EDMONTON, ON, Apr. 22, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Analytics is changing the face of the health care industry, whether determining the risk of premature infants to contract life-threatening illnesses, decreasing the fall risk of patients, or ensuring that emergency responders are within a reasonable distance from your home.

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, for example, is testing a new analytics system that can predict more accurately than ever before which premature babies are at most risk for disease and infection.

And the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is using IBM’s InfoSphere Streams software to correlate thousands of real-time data sources and analyze the information being collected from the over 400 premature infants that were monitored at the hospital. The system looks more closely at data, such as heart rate, temperature, blood saturation, and blood pressure levels, which is then streamed to the system 24/7 to provide a look at the babies’ health in a way never seen before. So far, the InfoSphere streams have captured two decades worth of data in just 400 patients though constant monitoring.

UOIT analyzes the data in many ways, including, they hope, to discover the onset of sepsis and various other conditions before these problems occur, says Dr. Carolyn McGregor, the Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics at UOIT. It hopes to be able to detect if the baby is about to develop any life-threatening infections 24 hours before visual onset. While medical personnel have traditionally used indicators such as body temperature to monitor for the onset of infection, analytics is providing “a much richer environment,” McGregor says, to analyze a wider variety of conditions that babies can develop.

Premature infants are not the only patients, however, reaping the benefits of analytics. In a case study performed by IBM, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (ELGSS), in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, used advanced case management to analyze data patterns that improved business processes and enhanced patient care.

Rustan Williams, the VP of information systems and technology systems and CIO for ELGSS, says one specific area it uses analytics for is to determine if a patient may be a fall risk. If the patient is determined to be at risk, special measures can be taken to ensure the patient’s safety.

The use of analytics in the medical community extends beyond the hospital. Ambulance services in many areas are now starting to use analytics to help increase efficiency. Companies such as Canada-based Darkhorse Analytics are using its analytics to offer assistance to these companies in a wide array of areas.

“Healthcare in Canada,” Daniel Haight, a founding partner for Darkhorse Analytics says, “has started taking over ambulances, so all services have a computer-aided dispatch system, unless they are really small. It is through their own database that they collect every call that comes in. The data is broken down into very detailed intervals of performance. We collect all the data and mine it for insight.”

Darkhorse identifies where problems are occurring and then helps come up with a plan of action. Haight explains that each problem area has different issues. Some municipalities have plenty of emergency vehicles but not enough stations, while others have plenty of stations but not enough vehicles. Through data analysis, Darkhorse is able to make suggestions on where stations should be located, how many vehicles should be housed at each, and the hours the stations should be more heavily staffed.

Efficient data collection partnered with intelligent analytics is a recipe for higher quality health care overall and is the road to the future, he adds.

Learn more about how analytics is transforming the health care industry at Canada’s largest analytics conference. Dan Haight will be speaking at Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud will be held April 23rd-25th in Edmonton, Alberta.

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