IBM, Premier Create Health Care Data-Sharing Platform

Health care alliance Premier will use IBM applications such as Initiate and WebSphere on a Power7 system to attempt to unify patient data for both providers and payers.

IBM and Premier Healthcare Alliance, an organization dedicated to health care performance improvement, have announced a partnership to build a new open-standard, data-metric platform to allow hospitals in Premier's network to share data.

Premier serves more than 2,400 U.S. hospitals and 70,000-plus additional health care facilities to provide what it calls "the nation's most comprehensive repository of clinical, financial and outcomes information and operates a leading health care purchasing network."

The new information platform will enable more consistent sharing of data and an improvement in patient safety. Through the collaboration and collection of data, the two companies hope the access to comprehensive data will help to avoid overtreatments-including unnecessary ER visits-hospital readmissions and medical errors, IBM and Premier report.

Premier's goal in working with IBM was to collaborate on a data architecture across a "buyer and payer continuum," an area that health care stakeholders have had difficulty tackling, according to Keith Figlioli, Premier's senior vice president of health care informatics.

"We generally believe it's going to be a unique, unifying platform that's going to be one of the first in the market that addresses that continuum-of-care aspect of the data at the patient level but also some of the patient attributes that come from the payer side of equation," Figlioli told eWEEK.

Ed Macko, IBM's chief technology officer for health care, added that Premier's 40 percent footprint in the hospital space could help bridge a "transformation" to payer data.

With data usually stored in multiple formats and locations in health care settings, having the data readily available could improve the quality and speed of care. Vast access to data could also give physicians an easier time following a patient's history, particularly if they have a chronic condition such as asthma or heart disease.

The software foundation behind the data-metric platform will be IBM's Smarter Analytics System with DB2 data warehouse running on the company's Power7 technology.

Premier will draw on multiple applications in IBM's portfolio to handle tasks such as data acquisition, cleaning and warehousing. By using Big Blue's applications under the collaboration announced Jan. 6, Premier will make hospital data "more efficient and repeatable," IBM reports.

The IT giant's Initiate data-management capabilities will give physicians a single view of a patient's record. Health care practices will then use WebSphere to integrate and validate data as well as manage clinical or business rules. In addition, providers will use Rational software to develop new applications and then collaborate on data through Lotus.

Meanwhile, IBM's Tivoli's software will help health care providers manage data security and services, IBM reports.

The new applications will also help doctors make quicker diagnoses with access to Premier's clinical, financial and operational database, which holds records for nearly 40 percent of the nation's hospital discharges.

"For the first time, all members in the health care system will be able to easily access data that is consistent and unified to help reduce preventable harm and waste," Susan DeVore, president and CEO of Premier, said in a statement. "This has been the missing link in helping move the mark on evidence-based medicine by using new insight to transform the quality and cost-effectiveness of care."

Premier's Quest study, which measured performance improvements of hospitals in 200 hospitals across 34 states, showed a savings of 22,164 lives and $2.13 billion in reduced spending by 157 hospitals using a similar data sharing model to the one the two companies announced. If all hospitals in the country used a common data model, 64,000 more lives and $23 billion in health care spending could have been saved, according to the Quest study.

In addition to hospital data, the new data applications will incorporate tools to determine how care is delivered for outpatient visits, health plans, supply chain and data regarding labor efficiency and operations.

"Without access to this data, the majority of providers simply cannot offer the type of accountable care that regulations require and patients deserve," Dan Pelino, general manager, IBM health care and life sciences, said in a statement. "Our work with Premier will help clinical, administrative and financial decision makers easily and efficiently access information that could improve care."