IBM  and the Georgia Institute of Technology today announced a new research initiative that will apply advanced systems modeling and large-scale data analytics capabilities to integrate traditionally disparate data that affects health.

The project, which includes partnerships with Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Department of Community Health, will focus initially on children suffering from diabetes, asthma and autism.

Called One Million Healthy Children (1MHC), it highlights on two specific challenges healthcare providers face. First, the current fee-for-service model in the United States means payment for action rather than for outcome, regardless of treatment effectiveness.

The other challenge is that health is affected by myriad factors – not just those that are apparent in lab tests. Factors like transportation, health services, socio-economic status, food resources, educational attainment and many others all impact a child’s health, but doctors do not have access to this information.

1MHC will adopt techniques from IBM’s services research portfolio to model economic, incentive, treatment, disease and other factors that affect healthcare decisions to find practices and policies that will shift the focus of pediatric care from disease treatment to long-term wellness and disease prevention. Additionally, IBM and Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology and Tennenbaum Institute, will work together to integrate a variety of data sources to advance model development and analysis of the complex system of children’s health. The aim of this collaboration is to develop solutions for improved pediatric care.

We are working to transform health care delivery systems by creating proactive and easily accessible health and wellness technologies.” – Stephen E. Cross, Executive Vice President Research Georgia Tech.

The ability to make sense of mountains of data with IBM’s analytics capabilities is the perfect pairing to our modeling expertise.” – William B. Rouse Tennenbaum Institute Executive Director

As the program progresses, IBM will provide software as needed through the IBM Academic Initiative, including DB2 for data storage, and SPSS and Cognos for data analytics.

Understanding data to improve pediatric care

The project will initially focus on diabetes, with asthma and autism to follow.

Over the last 10 years, the Center for Health Transformation reported increasing cases of Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents; diabetes has become the sixth leading cause of death in Georgia, and the cost of associated medical care, lost productivity, and premature death is over $ 4 billion a year.

According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, the highest rate of children’s emergency room visits in 2010 was asthma-related, while Georgia’s autism rates are rising faster than the national average.

The 1MHC program will begin by integrating many types of anonymized healthcare data, which is untraceable back to any single individual, but can be aggregated and analyzed. Data on care delivery and clinical practices will be obtained from a variety of participants in Georgia’s healthcare eco-system. In the first stages, health records for over 16,000 children will be analyzed, initially focusing on those suffering from diabetes, then asthma and autism, aiming to optimize policies that support the highest quality pediatric care by aligning treatments, outcomes, and costs.

The outcome of this collaborative research effort will provide model-based advice and guidance to healthcare providers. The goal is improved alignment of time, money and expertise to achieve the best quality and most cost-effective healthcare possible. The insights from this project will help healthcare providers and policymakers in the state of Georgia understand the impact of existing healthcare practices and of proposed changes.

Developing smarter health systems through modeling

Factors far beyond the traditional healthcare system – including finance, urban planning, individual behavior, disease transmission, clinical research and media – influence human health. Understanding these interconnected factors is critical to developing effective programs that enhance health and well-being.

Since 2009, a team at IBM Research – Almaden has been developing the Smarter Planet Platform for Analysis and Simulation of Health, a novel computational framework that integrates independent data, models and simulations to create larger, more comprehensive systems providing deep cause-and-effect analysis. Using a “plug-and-play” type of structure, the platform can combine multiple existing models to simulate real-world consequences under various conditions and assumptions.