IBM, North York General Hospital Collaborate on Health Care Data Aggregation, Dashboarding

North York General Hospital in Toronto will use IBM's InfoSphere and Cognos applications to aggregate medical data into a standard format and a user-friendly dashboard view.

NYGH (North York General Hospital), a multisite teaching hospital in Toronto, will become the first Canadian hospital to integrate both IBM's data aggregation software and a dashboard tool.

Big Blue has optimized its InfoSphere Clinical Analytics application to process the data-intensive workloads of hospitals, the company reports.

The software platform takes data from 50 collection points across the hospital's three locations, digitizes them and converts them into a standard format in its main data warehouse.

Data in disparate formats is a key problem for health care systems, according to Paul Sulkers, an IBM health care industry executive in Toronto.

"What they required was the need to aggregate the data and move it into a common data model, and that's what the InfoSphere plaform allowed them to do," he told eWEEK.

InfoSphere enables medical facilities to view all the data for a single patient as well as operational indicators for quality, safety, cost and general performance, Sulkers said.

Physicians can track a hospital's clinical, financial and administrative performance in InfoSphere by viewing Web-based graphics.

In addition to hospital systems, researchers at universities such as Columbia, in New York, are using IBM's InfoSphere analytics software to detect medical problems, like complications from brain injuries.

Besides the aggregation features of InfoSphere, NYGH will also use IBM's Cognos data mining and dashboard reporting application. IBM purchased Cognos in 2007.

Cognos allows doctors and nurses to view data metrics in a bar chart or pie chart. Medical practices can mine the information, set goals and send the data to doctors and nurses to help them adjust their workflows, Sulkers said.

Workflow measurements visible on the Cognos dashboard could include a record of when various doctors have checked for infection or administered antibiotics following surgery, he said.

"It's really a creation of the data warehouse, the data model, that pulls data from the financially charged system and the clinical system and HR and emergency room system into a common repository, and then Cognos reports on top of that," Sulkers explained.

"IBM's new analytics system enables us to track key performance indicators in real-time, which in turn helps health care decision makers quickly notice changes in trends, and if necessary, use that information to make a change in practices, programs and services that will benefit patients, the hospital and the health care system as a whole," Maria Muia, director of health information, decision support and privacy at NYGH, said in a statement.

Incorporating its software in a health care system can lead to fewer medical errors and help prevent diseases, according to IBM, which announced its partnership with NYGH on Jan. 20.

The real-time pushing of data from the data warehouse to the Cognos dashboard accessed by doctors and physicians is key to improving quality of care, according to Sulkers.

"It's trying to move away from that hindsight model to a bit more proactive and more predictive on how you want to react to address these quality indicators," Sulkers explained.

"There are growing pressures on hospitals to treat patients more efficiently and perform at higher levels, and that demands improved decision-making by applying advanced analytics," Barry Burk, IBM's health care industry vice president, said in a statement. "Smarter health systems such as the one NYGH is implementing analyze information to meet the changing needs of the organization, improve performance and ultimately deliver greater value to the patient."