The Draw of Big Data in Patient Care

 Dr. Jonathan Silverstein

A dozen years after NorthShore became a national pioneer in the deployment of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems, physicians and scientists are seeing extraordinary advances in the prediction and treatment of diseases. And the best is yet to come.

“It’s changing the way doctors practice,” said Jonathan Silverstein, MD, MS, Vice President and Davis Family Chair of Informatics at NorthShore and Director for the Center for Biomedical Research Informatics (CBRI).

“Big data” collection and analytics is complex and precise. It is a significant help in anticipating the course of disease and targeting the right interventions to the patient,” he said. Because NorthShore adopted an EMR system back in 2003, the organization has been a leader in making the best use of de-identified, multidimensional patient data such as lab work, imaging studies and physician observations.

Dr. Silverstein said he and his colleagues are also generating “a treasure trove of information” from 25 projects collecting discrete clinical documentation. He is grateful that eight of those projects are funded and led by the Department of Neurology through The Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem, a volunteer group that raises funds to support research and other programming. Other projects are supported via a variety of sources in many clinical departments.

One of CBRI’s current projects involves collecting and analyzing data for surgery patients with pancreatic cancer. The physician uses point-and-click data entry, answering questions about each patient’s medications, recovery time and other critical data, which are then compared to other patients. Such hands-on comparative information is an enormous benefit to each individual patient’s treatment and recovery. “It’s Personalized Medicine, but taken to the next level,” said Dr. Silverstein.

Researchers also have a new data system in the Infant Special Care Unit at NorthShore Evanston Hospital. “We have all the notes of physicians with general data and a physical assessment of how each baby is doing but now we have an ongoing record in real time so we can monitor the infants at that moment, prompt or alert the physician if there’s an issue, and then record that data for future interventions and analysis,” said Dr. Silverstein.

The opportunity to share data with other healthcare institutions to expand the scope of patient data excites Dr. Silverstein. “If we share, we can learn more about diseases and serve all patients more efficiently and with more knowledge,” he said.

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