At Kaiser Permanente, big data aids the youngest patients

Big data is making headway in healthcare, and California's Kaiser Permanente is showing what can be done with that information by using data techniques to help the most vulnerable among us--infants.

Doctors in Kaiser Permanente's neonatal intensive care units (NICU) have created an online calculator to determine the risk of sepsis in preterm and newborn babies, according to an announcement. The algorithm for the calculator is based on data sets made up of vital signs of mothers and babies who developed sepsis. 

"Prior to the online sepsis calculator, a maternal fever of 100.4 or higher meant a trip to the NICU regardless of how a baby looked or other risk factors," said research scientist Michael Kuzniewicz, M.D., in the announcement. "That meant separating the mother and baby, starting an IV, and putting the infant on intravenous antibiotics."

Open data still has hurdles to jump in the healthcare industry, but Kaiser is using data collected since 1993 in several ways.  

Its research division collects data sets on every infant born in the Northern California region, as well as information on babies admitted to NICUs. These data sets have led to statewide improvements in California for infants and newborns, including reducing the time an infant must spend in the NICU, for example.

Kaiser Permanente is not the only provider using data to improve care. NICUs are also sharing data with one another to implement changes in statewide care, according to an article by the Brookings Institution.

And earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration and Health and Human Services Department released data on drug adverse events as part of an initiative to make the information it gathers more readily usable by developers, researchers and the public. 

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Permanente announcement