UNMC solves big data problem in EHRs

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | August 07, 2018

Image with caption: From left, Scott Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and microbiology, and Jim Campbell, M.D.,  professor of internal medicine-general medicine

From left, Scott Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and microbiology, and Jim Campbell, M.D., professor of internal medicine-general medicine

A modern genetic test for a cancer patient contains more information than ever before: Too much, in fact, for modern digital medical records.

That's a problem, but it's a problem with a solution thanks to UNMC.

New tests, particularly genetic cancer tests, hold critical clues about the nature and ferocity of a tumor. They help doctors and patients plan treatments and adjust for new mutations in the tumor.

But those tests don't neatly fit into modern health records. In fact, those test results don't fit at all. Physicians must wade through multiple file attachments, or scroll through an apparently never-ending "notes" section for the important details.

It's like looking for a specific movie scene among a stack of old VHS tapes. That's great for 1995, but not in today's digital age that moves at warp speed.

The problem is that electronic health records -- EHR for short -- were originally created to help the billing process.

"EHRs were not built for clinical teams to use as searchable databases," said Kelly Choi, M.D., GenomOncology's chief commercial officer. GenomOncology, a Cleveland-based firm focused specifically on biomedical data, or informatics.

GenomOncology builds powerful engines that doctors and researchers use to tease important information from complex genetic tests. With the new agreement, GenomOncology now has a way to transmit those results to a patient's EHR, arming their care-providers with a better picture of their patient's health and history.

The deal began with UNMC researchers Scott Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and microbiology, and Jim Campbell, M.D., professor of internal medicine-general medicine, who managed to simplify the complex.

They developed a way to codify and name the multitude of facts that come from cancer gene testing. It needed to be something that a doctor could quickly and easily understand.

"There's all this new research about cancer, and none of it matters until you can determine what kind of cancer you have and what to do about it," said Joe Runge, J.D., the business development manager at UNMC's technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed. "This technology helps doctors more easily integrate all this new information."

UNeMed negotiated the licensing agreement, which pairs GenomOncology's powerful engine with the Campbells' elegant system. The system is called the Nebraska Lexicon Synoptic Pathology Reporting Module, and functions as an add-on to the most widely-used EHR terminology in the world, SNOMED CT.

GenomOncology's platform, now armed with the UNMC module, could also make a dramatic impact in research, helping filter and enroll patients for clinical trials.

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Karen Stiles
August 07, 2018 at 5:03 AM

Congrats Scott! Pretty cool