Exclusive report from IBM Data Summit: Addresses healthcare data growth

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The innovation model is changing, according to Mike Svinte, vice president of IBM global pharmaceutical and life sciences, who hosted the IBM Healthcare Data Summit 2007 in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday.

“We are entering into a new model of innovation with different characteristics,” he said. That includes innovation that is more open, whether via trade secrets or open standards; more collaborative, which includes more engineering entering into therapeutics; and more global. “It’s an exciting and dynamic time,” said Svinte.

Technological resources also are becoming more limitless rather than limited, in terms of computing power, for example. “It’s a sea change of what is available, how we apply it and how we take advantage of it.”

Two requisites for innovation, said Svinte, is the will to do the hard work, which we increasingly have, and the capabilities, which also are increasing.

There are huge pressures on healthcare systems, he said. The rapidly aging population means that by 2025, 1.2 billion people around the world will be more than 60 years old, and 2 billion by 2050.

The healthcare industry offers challenges IBM doesn’t see in other industries. The amount and the complexity of data in healthcare is driving innovation.

The various components of healthcare systems are interdependent, Svinte said. “There is more reliance and a desire to work together.” We are moving away from ‘one-size-fits-all’ medicine and toward more personalized, targeted medicine. “That’s a fundamental change. The scale of medicine has changed. Today, we are episodic and reactionary.  In the future, we will be predictive and preemptive medicine.”

Imaging is playing a big role in those changes. Medical imaging is creating wonderful, rich data, said Rich Bakalar, MD, chief medical officer for IBM. But, healthcare is laggard when it comes to IT because of the complexity of that data. The industry has been provider- and payor-centric and is shifting to becoming patient-centric, he said. That’s partly because, he said, each patient has more ability to influence their own health than all the other influences combined because of they alone can modify their own behavior and choose to comply with treatment.

Unfortunately, the United States spend more on healthcare than most other countries without good results. The U.S.’s healthcare system currently is ranked 37th according to the World Health Organization. “Forty percent of what we spend on healthcare is due to inefficient use of information,” said Bakalar.

That knowledge, as well as the following, are driving change:

  • Globalization. “We are exporting our chronic conditions to developing countries and developing countries are importing their acute conditions,” he said.
  • Consumerism.
  • Aging and overweight.
  • Diseases are more costly to treat.
  • New treatments and technologies.

Healthcare facilities have been very progressive when it comes to investing in imaging technologies, Bakalar said, and there has been less investment in IT. “Now, we are starting to see a more balanced approach between the two.”

Three changes must occur, he said, for success. They include shifting from cost basis to value basis; consumer responsibility; and transforming care delivery models. These three changes will result in a win-win transformation.

These changes also would hopefully change efforts to integrate technologies from “plug-and-pray” to true plug-and-play, he said.

“It’s time to get our arms around storage,” Bakalar said. In medical imaging, it’s all about the context of the image. An image is only useful if the person viewing it has the relevant information. “Medical context drives the value of the image.” Today, IBM is architecting systems that are future-centric, he said, and geared to larger volumes of imaging studies. “There is a higher demand for the services of radiologists so productivity is key.”

Storage for healthcare presents demands that are challenging to meet, including an always on archive, reliable integrity, easy management and administration, easy migration, affordable and scalable systems, and autorecovery.

“Healthcare represents interoperable and specific usage requirements that will drive further innovations,” said Clod Barrera, distinguished engineer for IBM.

The challenges presented by PACS are driving Barrera’s work. “PACS are isolated islands of data and applications,” he said. All the tasks associated with any system—recovery, growth, management—have to be done