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Monday, January 25, 2021

UT System to spend $12.4 million on clinical data network

The University of Texas System on May 12 approved spending $12.4 million over the next four years to launch a Clinical Data Network to better leverage its size and expertise to drive more efficient and improved health care delivery.

The Board of Regents approved the funds from the Available University Fund to be used over the next four years to develop and establish the system-wide network. The initiative advances Chancellor William H. McRaven’s Quantum Leap to increase collaboration among health institutions to provide Texans with the finest health care possible.

“We measure our performance by the data that is available to us,” said Ray Greenberg, executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “Right now, our clinical data reside at individual institutions. We have no way of getting a global picture of what’s going on within our health care enterprise. We see tremendous value in integrating our information sources and learning from each other.”

University of Texas System-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics handle more than 6.78 million outpatient visits and account for more than 1.38 million hospital days annually. Among the institutions is Fort Worth’s Moncrief Cancer Institute, an affiliate of UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center in Dallas.

Having access to aggregated clinical data has numerous benefits, including helping health care providers make better decisions about patient care, said Elmer Bernstam, associate dean for research and professor at UTHealth’s School of Biomedical Informatics in Houston – the only free-standing school in the nation that specializes in health care, analytics and data systems.

For example, data can show which management strategies have the best success rate with various conditions. And on the administrative side, data can show the cost of procedures at individual institutions compared to system-wide.

“This is an attempt to organize the institutions and combine their internal efforts and meet the needs of each institution individually and collectively,” said Bernstam, who is leading the development of the Clinical Data Network. “The goal, of course, is more efficient, safer and more effective health care for Texans and beyond Texas.”

In addition, access to large amounts of data will give an advantage to UT institutions when they compete for research funding from both public and private sources, such as the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical and biosciences industries, Bernstam said.

The Clinical Data Network initially will include all six UT health institutions.

“The study and application of informatics has become increasingly important to biomedical research, and the UT System is an established leader in the field,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, president of UTHealth. “The UT System Clinical Data Network will create unique opportunities for institutions across Texas to advance biomedical discovery, patient quality and safety and population health.”

Before approving funding for the Clinical Data Network, Regents had an extensive discussion about how the data could ultimately be used to guide public policy and provide cost savings.

“I hope we use this as a beginning of a process and not the end of a process to remove parochialism within the system … and outside of the system … to communicate and assess this critically important information, which can be used to advance population health and personal health,” Regent Alex Cranberg said.

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