Friday, June 10, 2011

#WIRELESS: "Keeping Pace With the Exabytes of Medical Data"

Smart applications like the free AsthmaMD help patients create diaries that caregivers can access to make sure directions are being followed and medications are being taken on time.

The overwhelming abundance of health data is prompting the development of smarter health analytics integrated with cloud computing to quickly sift out the nuggets of knowledge that help patients.

Health data is growing at a rate of 35 percent per year, according to the Enterprise Strategy Group, creating an abundance of riches requiring smarter health analytics to mine the data overload. Already over 27 percent of doctors are using handheld electronic devices to access medical data in the clouds—a rate of adoption that is five-times greater than the general population. However, the cloud-based data they must analyze is growing even faster, estimated to reach as much as 14 exabytes (billion gigabytes) by 2015.

The dramatic expansion of health analytics prompted doctors to start carrying not only stethoscopes but also smart phones, touch-screen tablets and handheld PCs to attain instant access to EMRs (electronic medical records). In addition, with real-time electronic access to medical-monitoring equipment, doctors can now remotely monitor patients from their offices, during hospital rounds or while on call. But to make sense of this abundance of data, health analytics has been enlisted to extract insights from the hidden meanings buried in those medical records, exams, imagery and pathology reports.

To craft the technologies needed to sift through the volumes of data streaming to the clouds from medical monitors, as well as to provide instant access to massive archives of medical records, IBM founded its Health Analytics Solution Center (Dallas) two years ago. There the talents of hundreds of health analytics experts and technical specialists are melding with IBM Research's Business Analytics and Optimization consulting organization.

Hosted in IBM's Dallas-based Global Solution Center, the Health Analytics Solution Center has enhanced the collection and analysis of streaming data from patient-monitoring sensors, medical instruments and handheld diagnostic devices. By simplifying the collection and analysis of medical data, doctors, nurses and hospitals have been able to more effectively manage patients’ diseases, monitor the quality of services provided, maintain ongoing patient population studies, as well as initiate regular performance reporting. And even after a patient leaves the hospital, wireless remote monitoring allows caregivers to watch for complications by monitoring temperature, blood pressure and pulse readings. In addition, patient-oriented smartphone applications help patients create medical diaries that caregivers can access to make sure patents are following directions and taking their medications on time.

Besides caregivers, IBM's Global Solution Center also strives to empower patients to make more informed decisions, medical device makers to improve patient satisfaction and health insurance companies to accurately predict trends.
The Health Analytics Solution Center is also retooling the artificial intelligence algorithms used in Watson—IBM's supercomputer that recently defeated the human champions on the game show “Jeopardy”--to harvest medical data for its context and meaning.

Using voice-recognition technology from partner Nuance Communications Inc., along with medical terminology management by Health Language Inc., IBM is retreading Watson to analyze millions of medical records, articles in medical journals and entries in medical encyclopedias. Integrated voice recognition will allow doctors not only to update medical records, enter notes and interact with medical databases using voice, but will also allow them to consult with a new version of Watson specialized at making accurate medical diagnoses.
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