IBM gets deeper into Big Data and EHRs with new projects

IBM ($IBM) has had a busy couple of weeks working on projects involving the dual trends of Big Data and electronic health records (EHRs). Having updated its disease-modeling platform last week, the tech giant has now snagged a grant to dig into EHRs to predict heart disease and opened a Big Data research lab.

The National Institutes of Health is backing the heart disease project with a $2 million grant. Using the cash, IBM--in collaboration with Sutter Health and Geisinger Health System--will run a three-year research program into the use of EHRs to predict heart disease. Patient records contain a wealth of information, but healthcare systems have lacked the ability to interrogate them for insights. IBM aims to create analytic algorithms that enable the accurate, early detection of heart problems physicians need to prescribe preventative medicines.

The project makes use of IBM's ability to mine data covering demographics, medical history, medication and allergies, and laboratory test results for health insights. Similar capabilities are at the heart of its new unit, the Accelerated Discovery Lab. IBM is pitching the lab as a way for companies to spot relationships in disparate data sets. "Getting insight out of data is a critical problem. We are at the beginning of a new age here. It is more of a struggle than we thought, and we have a unique opportunity here to take the data and explore the unknown," IBM fellow Laura Haas told VentureBeat.

While the lab will work across multiple industries, IBM talked up its potential in drug development. Using machine-based discovery technology, IBM mines published papers, patents and material properties databases and feeds the data into analytics, modeling and simulation tools. IBM claims this can reveal unexpected innovation opportunities and show which research bets offer the biggest potential profits. 

- read IBM's EHR release
- here's VentureBeat's take on the data lab
- and IBM's Big Data post