The Dell Medical School at the University of Texas announced Tuesday the creation of a “Biomedical Data Science Hub” with the goal of analyzing data to improve health care.
Paul Rathouz, the hub’s founding director, will recruit faculty and staff from different UT schools to analyze data -- some of which is already being compiled by the medical school.
The program’s findings will help improve health care and its cost, Rathouz said.
“One thing that I think the Dell Medical School is going to be really good at is translating research into actual improvements in care,” said Rathouz, who is joining the medical school from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health.
Much of the information that Rathouz’s team will analyze is already being compiled within the medical school under the department of population health. The department provides a central resource for managing data for the medical school, UT and the community. Non-health data will also be useful for their analysis, like census-based and environmental data, Rathouz said.
“Any given project will produce hopefully a generalizable result that will be useful to the broader community,” Rathouz said. “It will hopefully also be directly relevant to the Travis County community if the data being used is from Travis County or from the Dell medical system.”
Bill Tierney, chairman of the medical school’s department of population health, said the collection of big data isn’t new, but it hasn’t historically been done in Central Texas. His department is aiming to change that.
For years, hospital systems haven’t had much reason to share health data, according to Tierney. But now, doctors need access to the most up-to-date patient data to make health decisions.
“Texas, especially Central Texas, is way behind the curve on this,” he said, adding that there are more than 100 information exchange systems around the country. “You may call yourself the Silicon Hills, but when it comes to health information sharing this is the dark ages.”
But the data the department collects is often inconsistent and time-consuming to understand, Tierney said. That’s where the research hub comes in.
Rathouz and his team will analyze the data deeper so that the results can accurately inform clinical and public health practice.
“I think it’s easy for people to think that there’s giant amounts of data, and it’s just a question of turning a few cranks,” Rathouz said. “It’s just never quite that obvious once you start to dig a little deeper.”
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