IBM offers to cure US clinic's IT ills

US healthcare institution Mayo Clinic is to use IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer as part of an initiative to speed IT advances...

US healthcare institution Mayo Clinic is to use IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer as part of an initiative to speed IT advances related to patient care and medical research.

The clinic will use Blue Gene for one of its original stated aims - large-scale mathematical modeling to better understand gene and protein structures and how they interact.

The wide-ranging technology initiative started with the integration of 4.4 million patient records that had been in various incompatible formats into a system that has security and privacy features built in and that complies with federal regulations, IBM and Mayo said.

IBM is committing what it describes as substantial resources to the initiative. "Dozens of people are fully dedicated to this collaboration," said Mike Svinte, vice-president of information-based medicine at IBM.

"It is the real belief that we can reinvent patient care and healthcare by taking a whole new approach to the collaboration," he said. "The collaboration between our organisations is with the desire to drive a whole new level of innovation in a number of areas."

Those areas include molecular modeling, more highly individualised patient treatment, data mining, a better system of storing records with the intent of improving diagnoses and patient care, and acceleration of medical research. Specific projects involved in the collaboration include:

  • Mathematical modeling of diseases using IBM supercomputing, including Blue Gene technology. This project will use large-scale mathematical modeling of gene and protein structures and is meant to help researchers identify causes of diseases and work on disease prevention. Viruses can also be modeled using Blue Gene, which could help scientists develop vaccines and ways to treat viruses.
  • Biomedical informatics related to integrate genomic and proteomic data with clinical records and public databases that physicians use. One important focus of this project is to better use information collected in "unstructured text" of notes taken by doctors as they examine patients.
  • Individualised patient care, with Mayo physicians using pervasive devices and data-mining tools to create personalised information for each patient to the practising physicians "on demand". The aim of this is to enable doctors to use existing information about patients and to compare specific problems a patient has with medical research and experience of others who have similar conditions.

As software and services are developed through the collaboration, IBM will release products commercially, Svinte said.

Nancy Weil writes for IDG News Service

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