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UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics to connect records for medical providers in UT System


Elmer-Bernstam Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/The University of Texas Medical School at Houston Office of Communications Dr. Elmer Bernstam - Internal Medicine General Medicine
By Rob Cahill | June 14, 2016

With more than one million patient encounters throughout the Lone Star State every year, University of Texas System-owned hospitals and clinics will soon be sharing medical records.

The effort is part of the UT System’s “Quantum Leap” initiative and the aim is to leverage the system’s size and expertise to enhance the delivery of health care at the six existing UT health institutions with the potential to expand the project to their affiliated (not owned) hospitals and clinics and to the two new medical schools at UT Austin and UT Rio Grande Valley, which open in July.

The UT Board of Regents recently earmarked $12.4 million to create a UT System Clinical Data Network (UT-CDN), which will be coordinated by the School of Biomedical Informatics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“Having access to aggregated clinical data has numerous benefits, including helping health care providers make better decisions about patient care,” said Elmer Bernstam, M.D., who is leading the development of the UT-CDN and is a professor at School of Biomedical Informatics and John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

For example, data can show which management strategies have the best success rate for various conditions. On the administrative side, data can show the cost of procedures at individual institutions compared to system-wide, said Bernstam, associate dean of research and holder of The Reynolds and Reynolds Professorship in Clinical Informatics at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics.

Much of the information technology infrastructure needed to aggregate and analyze the records is already in place through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) programs at UTHealth, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, UTMB Galveston and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

These institutions are all part of the Texas Regional CTSA Consortium. The program at UTHealth is called the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS) and is operated in conjunction with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Memorial Hermann Health System. The CCTS operates a Clinical Research Unit in Brownsville.

“The UT-CDN will be instrumental in helping the CCTS achieve our ultimate goal of improving health through better research. Access to clinical data is essential for Clinical Trials Xpress, our new Texas Regional CTSA Consortium clinical trials network,” said David D. McPherson, M.D., executive director of the CCTS, which is funded by a CTSA Award from the National Institutes of Health. He is the James T. and Nancy B. Willerson Chair at UTHealth.

“This is going to be a game-changing project that will have a huge impact on the UT System in terms of clinical and translational research, biomedical discovery, population health, medical training and clinical care, and it is going to be a crucial infrastructure for many projects under the Precision Medicine Initiative,” said Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., dean and The Glassell Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Informatics Excellence at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics.

“We measure our performance by the data that is available to us,” said Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., UT System executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “Right now, our clinical data reside at individual institutions. We have no way of getting a global picture of what’s going on within our health care enterprise. We see tremendous value in integrating our information sources and learning from each other.”

“The study and application of informatics has become increasingly important to biomedical research, and the UT System is an established leader in the field,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair at UTHealth.

Bernstam is on the faculty of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.




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