Statewide medical database aims to improve care, lower costs

A consortium of universities and hospital systems in South Carolina have started using a database containing the medical information of millions of patients across the state with the intent of developing better, more cost-effective treatment plans.

The State reports that this $15 million database--dubbed the Clinical Data Warehouse--is housed at Clemson University and operated by Health Sciences South Carolina in Columbia. The funds came from the Duke Endowment, a philanthropic organization benefiting the Carolinas.

Doctors and university researchers hope to use this collection of data--3.2 million patients who have been through 25.3 medical diagnoses since 2011--to enhance preventative healthcare.

"It's a complete shift," Tripp Jennings, systems vice president for Palmetto Health in Columbia, told The State. "Our history has been sick care. Now, we're really trying to get to healthcare."

Researchers so far have been accessing records and using analytics to, for example, find ways to reduce surgical complications and study care for people who have heart attacks outside of hospitals, according to the article.

Hospitals sending their information to the warehouse include: Palmetto Health in Columbia, Greenville Health System and MUSC Health in Charleston, according to the article. Additionally, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, AnMed Health in Anderson, Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood and McLeod Health in Florence are not too far behind in taking advantage of the database.

And they're paying attention to security--medical data is encrypted, and anyone using the data warehouse must receive approval and training first. The staff of 25 includes computer security and privacy officers, the article notes.

This past summer, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers were able to electronically integrate clinical and genomic information on 140 breast cancer patients through use of a data warehouse. 

"The integration of data, which is the goal of the enterprise data warehouse, allows us to ask questions that we just simply couldn't ask before," Adrian Lee, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and director of the Women's Cancer Research Center, said of that endeavor.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, as well as Public Health England, also have massive databases in the works as they strive to better understand how cancer develops and the best ways to fight the disease.

To learn more:
- read the article in The State

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