Vendors Ready Second-Generation Electronic Health Systems to Link Genomics and Clinical Records

Article by written by By Vivien Marx courtesy Genome Web Pictures courtesy wikimedia

Several large healthcare IT providers are looking to get in on the ground floor of the translational medicine market by adding new capabilities to their systems to enable the integration of genomic information and clinical data.

GE Healthcare, for example, is developing a “clinical knowledge platform” called Qualibria that can “correlate genomic information with the clinical experience or the phenotype,” Brandon Savage, chief medical officer of the firm’s integrated IT solutions business, told BioInform this week. The system is scheduled for limited release to early-access users later this year and general release in 2011.

Cerner is also “trying to make it easier to connect” genomics and clinical medicine, said Mark Hoffman, vice president of life sciences solutions. One way the company is addressing this challenge is through the development of a Clinical Bioinformatics Ontology that links vocabularies used for genomics and clinical practice.

A number of academic medical centers are actively working at the intersection of genomics and the clinic, but these groups to date have not had much support from commercial systems.

For example, Lynn Vogel, vice president and CIO of MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in a keynote address at the Conference on Semantics in Healthcare and Life Sciences earlier this year that “commercial vendors in this space have had almost no interest in bridging the gap between the clinical side of the house and the research side of the house.” As a result, Vogel noted, many translational research groups have had to build their own informatics systems to handle data from the two disciplines.

GE’s Savage agreed that institutions like MD Anderson currently “tend to outpace the average vendor in the field” when it comes to fully integrated systems. “Their frustration is not surprising,” he said.

“Historically, vendors have not had the right infrastructure to be flexible, but with this investment in [Quilibria], we do believe we will be significantly more responsive to these types of requests for research,” he said.

Savage noted that electronic systems for research and the clinic are “typically very separate” in US healthcare institutions, but noted that the company is “investing a very large amount of money right now” in building systems that will address that challenge. He did not offer details on the investment sum.

Models and Ontologies

GE Healthcare has been developing Qualibria in collaboration with Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic.

Savage said that GE is working with these academic partners to build “clinical data models” and to create a “public-domain” medical vocabulary for storing clinical information. So far, the partners have developed approximately 4,000 models that will help with data storage and “reliable” data retrieval for clinical research, he said.

He noted that GE’s system is looking to improve upon existing medical ontologies such as SNOMED, the Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms, and LOINC, or Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes, which are not organized “to store information about a patient in a way that is clinically relevant to a physician.”

Healthcare IT vendors have been slow to deliver systems that can effectively bridge genomic and clinical data, but GE Healthcare and Cerner are looking to reverse that trend with new capabilities for their systems.

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