Father-Son Team Builds Hospital Intelligence From Scratch - InformationWeek

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Father-Son Team Builds Hospital Intelligence From Scratch

Taking aim at the general dearth of analytics tools used by hospitals, two doctors decide to build their own system.

A father-son team of physicians has taken aim at the medical field -- notoriously behind the curve when it comes to using business intelligence to gather and analyze data, especially hospital records -- with a software product that combines elements of both business process management (BPM) and BI analytics. Called Micro-Cares, the product tracks the treatment of patients in a hospital setting, and its creators say it could represent a revolution in how doctors think not only about patient care, but the training of physicians.

Dr. James Strain, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and his son Jay, a surgeon in the San Francisco Bay area, take an idealistic view toward their Micro-Cares project. "We're not in this for the money," the younger Dr. Strain says. "Or goal is simply to make something that works."

For decades, hospitals have struggled with the computerization of patient records. At most institutions, dozens of home-grown legacy systems are scattered throughout the organization, with little interaction between them. Funding is often a problem -- hospitals generally have little money left over to spend on IT upgrades -- and so is compliance. Privacy issues make it difficult for doctors to share patient data, a status quo that ultimately impedes research, many clinicians says. Doctors in one part of the country or the world might be getting high-quality results with one form of treatment on a certain disease, but if they can't communicate this or even locate the trend with any efficiency, it does no wider good. For the Strains, it is precisely this sharing of information -- while at the same time maintaining patient privacy -- that has motivated their move into the software field.

There are several pieces to the Micro-Cares product, the primary being CISCL (which stands for "Clinical Information System, Consultation - Liaison psychiatry, a form of psychiatry practiced in acute-care general hospitals for the treatment of mentally ill patients.) CISCL is an electronic medical-records tracker and database, and its roots go back to 1979, at the psychiatry department of Mount Sinai, where James Strain has worked for 26 years, including as director of the hospital's division of behavioral medicine and consultation psychiatry. Strain and a few colleagues undertook a massive project to come up with a dataset, a group of standard variables -- what the BI world would call "key metrics" -- in an effort to create a patient and treatment information system that would allow for the robust mining of all the information collected.

The basis for the system would be a set of uniform codes, each corresponding to a piece of information: patient complaint, patient demographic, status of consultation, lab tests, psychiatric diagnosis, eventual treatment and prognosis. The list was long and the process arduous -- some 300 variables were isolated after fifteen years of work. A computer database was created, originally on an IBM 370. As a boy, Jay Strain even helped his father on the project, working as a key-puncher.

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