Information Therapy

Beckie Kelly Schuerenberg. A Prescription For Information: A Seattle health care organization embraces new method for delivering patient education. Health Data Management, November 2003.

Group Health Cooperative…offers patients secure, Web-based access to their health data—such as lab results—from its site, along with links to information to further help them understand diseases, conditions and more.

“Many people view health care as a ‘black box’ operation where it’s difficult for consumers to know what’s going on and understand what things mean,” says [James Hereford, executive director of health informatics at Group Health Cooperative]. “People want to receive more information from their provider. They want information embedded into the care process…The Internet represents a way to extend the integration of health care information into patient care beyond the bricks and mortar of our facilities,” he says. “And the initiative is constantly evolving because we’re always reacting to new health care information.”

The Group Health Cooperative webpage is here.


Disease Management

Mark Hagland, Arrested Development: Early medical management improves the outcome of diseases, even chronic ones. Healthcare Informatics, November 2003.

"[Many] are aware of the challenges ahead for managed healthcare as the incidence of chronic illness continues to rise, taking utilization and costs with it. They also know that they need to use IT-powered medical management strategies, including disease management, to improve the health of plan members and cut costs by intervening earlier, better and smarter."

Netezza Performance Server


For years, researchers and scientists have been thwarted by the inability of computers to process genomic data at the terabyte level including sequence analysis. The NPS system for bioinformatics is a biology-aware, tera-scale data warehouse that includes data types specific to bioinformatics applications and integrates sequence analysis using BLAST with a SQL relational database. Data processing can now be done in near real-time at the source of the data. Full sets of data, rather than sample subsets, can be analyzed for a complete view of patterns and similarities. The NPS system manages fast data loads and optimizes ad hoc and complex queries for maximum performance, transforming the way researchers can use their data.

“The NPS system dramatically decreases the time and cost to produce gene profiles, sequence comparison results, and more quickly enables researchers to make important discoveries,” said Marshall Peterson, CTO, J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. “The NPS system delivers groundbreaking innovations and performance at the system architecture level, enabling genetic and other scientific researchers to analyze genomic data and combine it with other critical patient and clinical data. Managing a single copy of sequence data and associated structure data in a SQL database enables researchers to focus on important life sciences questions without having to worry about multiple copies of data in multiple formats that have to be kept in sync.”

Profile: The Way Station

The Way Station is a database designed specifically for storing information on genetic variants.

Interview: Molly Joel Coye

Mike Dougherty, LEADING QUESTIONS: Looking Down the Road, Health Leaders Magazine, Nov. 2003.

This article is an interview with Molly Joel Coye MD MPH, the founder and CEO of HealthTech.  Her comments contain no surprises and are a welcome reaffirmation of the excitement surrounding the health IT field.  First, her opinion about future trends in health technology:

"…increasing consumer demand will meet a truly exploding pipeline of clinical devices-both implanted and worn-that will be used to replace natural functions to support, function or aid in treatment as chronic disease takes its toll."

On the future of electronic patient record (EPR):

"The electronic patient record is one of the three or four components important in the next three to five years in IT. The first stage is development of regional platforms for data sharing. Regional platforms often begin with eligibility lookup, claims lookup and eventually claims processing, and progresses to clinical data sharing beginning with laboratory and pharmacy and working out from there. There’s a growing national awareness of the urgency of the need for better information in healthcare. If, in the next two years, most of the necessary clinical data standards are established, we will be entering a new era as vendors sell IT systems that are compatible with the standards. The use of the EMR should grow steadily over the next five to eight years, and ultimately will be the most important piece of the puzzle of advancing quality."


Press Release, IBM teams with UCSF to link university’s research and clinical data, Nov 17 2003.

The three-year collaboration…will use the power of information technology to bridge clinical and genomic research — across UCSF departments and throughout its research and clinical sites. This approach marks a major departure from the way research is conducted in most academic medical centers today and is considered crucial to continue to advance medical diagnosis and to find new genetic and environmental causes of diseases. The collaboration is a result of a competitive proposal process.

UCSF and IBM will develop an advanced clinical and genomic information management program, allowing scientists from different disciplines to work with physicians to seek the genetic links implicated in their patients’ illnesses. One of the team’s goals is to develop a Web-based system that is readily accessible to physicians with little information technology training. The IBM scientists will work side by side with their physician-scientist counterparts on site at UCSF. The technology infrastructure will be designed to protect the security and privacy of patient health information.

Bio-IT World has an article about the collaboration here.

1 cent per NT by ‘05?

Tabitha M Powledge, How many genomes are enough? The Scientist, November 17, 2003.

Buried in a discussion about the optimal number of genomes needed for comparitive genomics is the following graf:

Sequencing costs have dropped several orders of magnitude, from $10 per finished base in 1990 to today’s cost, which Green estimates at about 5 or 6 cents per base for finished sequence and about 2 to 4 cents for draft sequence. For some comparisons, draft sequence is adequate. Last spring NHGRI projected future cost at about a cent per finished base by 2005.

Although the plummeting price of sequencing is welcome, it is due to incremental improvements on the basic technology. “What we’re all praying for is one of those great breakthroughs—a new technology that will allow us to read single-molecule sequences, or whatever the trick is going to be that will give us several orders of magnitude increase in speed and reduced cost,” Robertson said. Teams of competitive technology developers around the world are racing toward that goal, cheered on by a lot of casual prophecy about the $1000 genome.

UPDATE: Randall Parker over at has commented on this article.

Health Information Infrastructure

Panel Suggests Electronic Health Records, Yahoo News, Nov. 20, 2003.

[T]he Institute of Medicine [here]…an arm of the National Academy of Sciences…is chartered by Congress to advise the government on medical matters.

To improve the use of electronic records, the institute recommended that the government help create data standards for the secure collection, storage and dissemination of medical information electronically.

That would form the basis for a network that would allow widespread exchange of critical health information, said the independent group, which advises the government on medical issues.

The report urges the government to model the system after the airline industry’s air traffic and weather information systems.

This recommendation is contained in a report published yesterday by the IOM entitled, "Patient Safety: Achieving a New Standard for Care."  (read it online for free).  It is one of many reports filed under the IOM’s Health Care Quality Initiative.

UPDATE: Bio-IT has posted an article on this report by the IOM:
Brian Reid, IOM Report: IT Key to Patient Safety Reform, Bio-IT World, 11/20/03.

BioMEMS 768 Sequencer

New technology will speed genome sequencing, Eureka Alert, Nov. 20, 2003.

This fall, researchers at Whitehead Institute [here] will test new technology…The BioMEMS 768 Sequencer can sequence the entire human genome in only one year, processing up to 7 million DNA letters a day, about seven times faster than its nearest rival.

While developed at Whitehead, the machine is being commercialized by network biosystems…

See pic of the BioMEMS 768 here.


Health Informatics

Bio-IT World has a series of three new articles entitled "Strategic Insights: HEALTH INFORMATICS":

KATHY ORDOÑEZ, Targeted Medicine via Molecular Diagnostics. Bio-IT World, Nov. 14, 2003.

JEFF AUGEN, Making Information-Based Medicine Work. Bio-IT World, Nov. 14, 2003.

AMNON SHABO, Integrated EHR: The Final Frontier. Bio-IT World, Nov. 14, 2003.

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