Better Data Management, Lower Healthcare Costs

By Rachel Harrington

Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE)
Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE)

Today people with diabetes and other chronic conditions are benefiting from real-time monitoring devices such as miniaturized implants, home monitoring equipment and smartphone applications. But while tracking a person’s symptoms and vitals has improved, hospitals and their medical teams are not yet ready to take advantage of all the personalized health data generated by new medical devices.

Now Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE) and Associate Professor William Adams (BMC) have teamed up with MIT Professor Dimitris Bertsimas to develop algorithms that can systematically process all patient data in hospital electronic medical records and personalized health records. These algorithms will be designed to classify patients based on their risk of developing an acute condition requiring hospitalization. Such information can then be used to drive preventative actions.

“What motivated us to start this particular project is the recognition that the U.S. healthcare system is extremely inefficient, as it is geared toward treating acute conditions,” said Paschalidis. “There are tremendous opportunities for preventing the occurrence of these conditions and the expensive hospitalizations they cause.”

To support their work, the National Science Foundation has awarded Paschalidis (principal investigator) and Adams and Bertsimas (co-principal investigators) a five-year, nearly $2 million grant for the project. By focusing on disease prevention and keeping patients out of the hospital, their research has the potential to improve what many regard as a highly expensive and inefficient healthcare system.

“The meaningful use of electronic health records is seen as a key to improving efficiency,” the team wrote in their proposal.

The project will utilize Paschalidis’s expertise in data models, optimization and decision theory, and Adams’ ability to work with physicians to obtain feedback on the outcome of the algorithms.

“The main challenge is going to be the adoption of the techniques we develop by physicians in particular and the healthcare system in general,” Paschalidis said. “Dr. Adams will serve as our ambassador to that community.”

Welcoming this new partnership, Adams observed that the Boston Medical Center has spent more than ten years developing a robust and rich clinical informatics infrastructure for clinical care and research.

“Translational science involves collaborative efforts between traditionally independent scientists,” he said. “This project is innovative and important in that it brings together mathematicians, engineers, clinicians and informatics experts to better understand and improve healthcare.”

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