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Stanford University School of Medicine

How efforts to mine electronic health records influence clinical care

Developing new ways to mine the vast amount of information contained in electronic medical charts holds the potential to advance diagnosis and treatment for patients. The quantity of health information, which ranges from physician observations to lab results, is huge - and as Stanford researcher Nigam Shah, MBBS, PhD, commented in a Wall Street Journal story published today, “We should be learning from the record of routine medical practice.”

In his work, Shah has developed methods for extracting data from electronic medical record to glean valuable information about possible drug side effects and off-label uses for medications. The article goes on to highlight another Stanford example of how the practice of data mining has influenced clinical care:

Jennifer Frankovich, a pediatric rheumatologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., follows pediatric patients who have juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Doctors know that these patients are at higher risk of getting an eye inflammation disease called uveitis. If not detected and treated in time, uveitis can cause serious eye damage, including blindness.

The difficulty for doctors is predicting which patients will get the condition. Sometimes the children experience blurry vision but don't tell anyone. Other times, there are no obvious signs of a problem until serious damage is done.

As a result, eye exams are done on the patients at random times. When several families mentioned during routine checkups that the uveitis seemed to act up when their children had allergies, Dr. Frankovich wondered if there might be a connection. Stanford researchers used data from electronic health records of unnamed patients from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital from 2000 to 2011, including clinical notes. They concluded that there was an association between allergies and flare-ups of uveitis in patients with juvenile arthritis.

Next week, Shah and others from academia, industry and government will gather for the Big Data in Biomedicine conference at Stanford.

Previously: NIH Director: “Big Data should inspire us”, Chief technology officer of the United States to speak at Big Data in Biomedicine conference, Big Data in Biomedicine technical showcase to feature companies’ innovations related to big data and Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world

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