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IT-bioinformatics project receives one of only six Oracle awards for technology innovation

by Gary Mans, HSC communications and marketing last modified Oct 03, 2012 12:42 PM

Green means healthy. Red means problematic. Understanding health risks is as simple as that in a health management program that the University of Louisville’s information technology office and health informatics group developed.

IT-bioinformatics project receives one of only six Oracle awards for technology innovation

The system lets people know their colors - and know their health statuses.

The program received one of only six Oracle awards for most innovative ideas of the year at the company’s annual showcase on Oct. 2.

The system uses a person’s routine blood test results to identify risk factors associated with various diseases and conditions and displays them in stages of red, yellow or green, with red being problematic and green being healthy. Assigning colors simplifies the test results and makes them easier to remember.

“Our goal is to provide individuals and their health care providers with an easy-to-use and interpret system to help them manage their risk factors for various diseases and conditions,” said Russ Bessette, associate vice president for bioinformatics at UofL’s Health Sciences Center.

Through the management of risk factors, the team estimates a minimal annual savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars by helping people stay out of the hospital, earlier intervention when conditions begin to worsen and better patient compliance because they can see changes in their health status, he said.

The system works by analysis of data from standard blood tests to determine levels of certain markers for such illnesses and conditions as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic lung diseases and more. Patients and health care providers can track progress with a color-coded chart that illustrates whether a patient is in good health, approaching a problem or in need of immediate attention.

“Our goal is to make health care information accessible to more people,” Bessette said.

The team hopes to place secure information kiosks with the program in underserved communities to make it more convenient for them to get health information, he said. Certified nurses would train health coaches within those communities who could help patients understand their personal health information and help them learn ways to improve their health.

Creating the all-important graphics and making them instantaneously available to the thousands of anticipated users was one of the most challenging aspects in the system development.

“We had the responsibility of making the graphics come alive,” said Priscilla Hancock, UofL vice president for information technology. “We had to determine how best to provide patients with something that was easy and quick for them to be able to read and understand, while at the same time, provide health care providers with a tool that allows for legitimate disease management based on real data.

“I know that for all of us in the informational technology office, this has been a tremendous project to work on. This is an example of how information technology can collaborate with another area on campus and really make a difference in people’s lives.”

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