IBM Collaborates with BJC, WUSM on Health Care Data Analytics

IBM Content Analytics can extract unstructured medical data from 50 million documents within minutes for researchers at BJC Healthcare and Washington University.

IBM has announced that BJC Healthcare and the Washington University School of Medicine Center for Biometrics will use its IBM Content Analytics application to help researchers extract unstructured medical data from 50 million documents.

BJC Healthcare is a nonprofit health system serving the St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri areas. The WUSM (Washington University School of Medicine) in St. Louis was founded in 1891.

The two organizations wanted a way to sort through disjointed and redundant biomedical data, so that more than a small number of researchers can benefit from the information, IBM reports.

BJC and WUSM will use Content Analytics, part of IBM's Enterprise Content Management business, to analyze the trends and patterns in documents such as clinical notes, admission/discharge summaries, electronic health records and diagnostic reports to assist doctors in making diagnoses.

Content Analytics, formerly called Cognos Content Analytics, uses some of the same analytics capabilities now found in the IBM Watson supercomputer, which uses natural language data-access technology to search for and retrieve information. This technology, created through a development project called DeepQA, will be used to answer questions for doctors on health issues such as drug interactions and test results.

"We think IBM Content Analytics will be a game-changer in biomedical research and patient care," Dr. Rakesh Nagarajan, associate professor in the pathology and immunology department at Washington University, said in a statement. "It will ultimately accelerate the pace of clinical and translational research through more rapid and accurate extraction of research-relevant information from clinical documents."

The software algorithm can pull information from these documents within minutes, according to IBM.

"It's the software and analytics algorithms running on top of that information that extract out the nuggets for you and surface them into an interface you can go and explore," Craig Rhinehart, IBM's director of enterprise content management, told eWEEK.

Still, the software presents the data from up to 50 million documents in a dashboard view, an amount of data that people can't process on their own, Rhinehart said.

By being able to extract key data from up to 50 million documents in medical records, BJC and WUSM will be able to increase the speed of research, and therefore boost patient care.

"You can never read 50 million documents and understand what the trends and patterns were across 50 million documents; it's impossible," Rhinehart explained. "You couldn't even take 500 people to do it, because there is never an efficient way to consistently understand the behavior in those documents and then figure out all the trends and patterns."

Hypothetical questions that Content Analytics could analyze include conditions occurring after a patient stops smoking or the reasons for people tripping on steps and injuring themselves, according to Rhinehart.

Rather than taking 10 to 15 minutes to find information on a patient's smoking history, Content Analytics can take only a few seconds to scan hundreds of documents to find the answer, IBM reports.

"You might go explore a set of documents to learn something that would have never occurred to you to query as a search because you didn't know you were looking for it," Rhinehart noted.

Meanwhile, IBM demonstrated a new patient portal platform at the CeBIT IT and telecommunications conference in Hanover, Germany, March 1-5.

A standards-based platform, the IBM Patient Empowerment System allows patients to integrate and manage their health care information as well as receive recommendations or alerts on safer medical treatment. They can also access third-party health portals, electronic health records, sensors and home remote-monitoring devices.