Friday, March 1, 2013

Invitation to Join the OHSU Informatics Discovery Lab

As the value of informatics is demonstrated throughout healthcare, personal health, research, and public health settings, there is a growing need for collaboration among academia, industry, healthcare delivery organizations, public health agencies, and others. Academic programs will lose their relevance if its efforts are not aligned with the greater advancement of the disciplines in which they work. There are very high expectations that wide deployment of informatics will significantly improve healthcare and biomedical research from where we are now. This will not be possible without academia closely collaborating with companies, health-related organizations, healthcare delivery systems, public health agencies, and other health stakeholders.

Our department already looks outward as a essential characteristic of our large educational program.  Through our students and graduates, we disseminate knowledge, best practices, and research that advances and improves our understanding of our field. However, as I have written over the years in this blog, another local blog, and our local newspaper, our academic program at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) must move beyond its historical work of research funded primarily by federal research grants and education funding by tuition and training grants. We also need to make this move from a business sense, increasing revenue diversification in order to insure the longevity and financial viability of the program.

To this end, we are rolling out a new initiative that we are calling the OHSU Informatics Discovery Lab (IDL). The IDL will be a collaborative environment where students, teachers, and researchers, as well as representatives from healthcare delivery organizations, industry, and philanthropy, can partner to:
  • Foster highly relevant informatics research focused on real-world problems
  • Uncover commercially viable informatics opportunities
  • Accelerate informatics innovation and deployment
  • Provide companies and employers greater access to a faculty with both broad and deep informatics expertise and a well-trained informatics workforce pool
  • Expand the number and variety of informatics practicum and internship opportunities available for students
  • Make available informatics educational opportunities beyond traditional certificate and degree programs for current professionals, members of industry, and others requiring deeper informatics education and experience
The IDL will include informatics scientists, implementers, educators, and students with a unique combination of training, experience, and skills. Areas of expertise already include:
  • Healthcare analytics
  • Workflow redesign
  • Qualitative and quantitative evaluation methodologies
  • Natural language processing, machine learning, and information retrieval
  • Biomedical terminologies, ontologies, and coding
  • Biomedical data structure, representation, and normalization
The talent and skills of the IDL will allow us to bring a wide-ranging, multidisciplinary methodology to problem solving to apply the right approach to the problem. The figure below depicts our methodology.

There are a large variety of problems that need to be solved in health and biomedicine; however, focus is essential to successfully concentrate effort to solve specific problems. We have selected the following challenge areas not only for their importance, but also for their strong fit with our department's unique competencies. Specific projects within these areas will be identified and implemented based on our partners’ needs and interests:
  • Predictive Analytics for Healthcare Process Redesign
  • Usability for EHR Data and Users
  • Population management and Care Coordination Information Systems
  • Mobile Telemedicine
  • Precision Medicine
  • Enhancing Search in Biomedicine
A challenge for launching and sustaining the IDL is of course its business model. Possible partnership models we are exploring include:
  • Supporters. Philanthropic donors who help fund lab research activities gain wider access to the lab’s research, facilities, faculty, and staff. Supporters are eligible for a lab-wide NDA, which allows discussion of lab innovations as a whole, instead of on a per-project basis. Supporters are also eligible to send their employees to the lab for sabbaticals and other learning development experiences.
  • Sponsored Research. This includes specific projects of interest to both the commercial partner and the mission of the lab. These projects are funded by the commercial partner and managed and executed by the lab in collaboration with the partner, based on a project-specific statement of work and deliverables.
  • Fee for Service. Sponsoring organization require DMICE to provide certain services that is strictly generation of data or analysis for a set fee with no ownership of IP by OHSU.
  • Collaborative Development. This model comprises exploratory problem-solving intended to create shared intellectual property.
  • Consulting. Partners may access the expertise and experience of the lab for small, focused advisement, direction, evaluation, and feedback on their projects or areas of interest.
  • Company Start-up. Faculty can contemplate to start companies that can either provide unique resource, services and/ or develop products that have tangible IP to address an unmet need.
  • Product/Software Development. In partnership with companies jointly develop software and also be a beta testing site.
  • Custom Education. Tailoring OHSU's informatics educational assets for new and innovative purposes.
  • Clinical Trial design. Outcomes research and patient information analysis.
There will be many benefits to IDL partners, including:
  • Oregon and OHSU are national leaders in healthcare reform. OHSU is Oregon’s largest academic health center, with Oregon and OHSU having the right population size and scope to test and implement new health care ideas and approaches. 
  • Access to resources and collaborative faculty expertise from bench to bedside to policy in medicine, nursing, dentistry, and public health informatics. Leverage significant existing investments and dedicated resources focused on biomedical and health informatics research and education at OHSU, including other public and private funding supporting our work. 
  • Health simulation environments, analytical models, health management platforms, and domain expertise on deploying marketable technologies for use in the multi-billion dollar health sector. 
  • Invaluable community benefit gained by demonstrating the translation of information into meaningful knowledge to cure disease and save lives. 
  • Access to health informatics students and post-doctoral fellows. 
  • Corporate partner company employees are eligible to use the IDL for sabbaticals and other learning development experiences. 
  • Corporate partners are eligible for OHSU Corporate Catalyst Program benefits (donations of $25,000+). 
The IDL development effort is being led by Aaron M. Cohen, MD, MS, Associate Professor and Director of Commercial Partnerships and Collaboration in the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology (DMICE) at OHSU. Dr. Cohen has been the recipient of several grants from the National Institutes of Health and others, applying text mining and machine learning to problems in biomedicine. Before joining OHSU, Aaron was employed at Intel Corporation as a Senior Staff Software Engineer and Software Architect where he led the development of video teleconferencing systems, 3D browser media, and multimedia and telephony standards. The IDL will be guided by an external steering committee representing the Lab’s many stakeholders: DMICE students and alumni; biomedical researchers; healthcare delivery organizations; healthcare information technology vendors; entrepreneurs and technology transfer experts; and philanthropic organizations.

We look forward to getting feedback and potential partners to work with us as we roll out the IDL. We invite you to join us on this journey.

1 comment:

  1. Great initiative ! There's a wealth of talent at OHSU "locked in the silo" (forgive the familiar informatics refrain !), and a method of collaboration with those outside academia will benefit all. Marketing this initiative will be crucial to its success.
    As a graduate of the Certificate program, I can speak to the highest caliber of the DMICE faculty. I hope to be part of this effort in some fashion.