• Deciphering Big Data

    Biomedical Informatics cuts through the data clutter to transform care


    Nearly two decades ago, a few Cincinnati Children’s board members made a transformative decision.

    “They saw how the digital revolution was affecting business, and realized that healthcare and research were not major players,”  says John Hutton, MD.

    So the Division of Biomedical Informatics at Cincinnati Children’s was created, just in time for the onslaught of technology  that would digitize patient records, allow physicians to enter orders into computers at the bedside, and automate the dispensing  of drugs.

    And just in time for the completion of the human genome project, which made a vast compendium of human genetic data accessible  to researchers worldwide.

    This explosion of health information, coupled with the medical center’s growth, soon made it clear that one unit could not  support both clinical and research needs, Hutton says. So Biomedical Informatics focused on supporting research, and the Department of Information Services focused on supporting clinical and business operations.

    But the lines between clinical care and research would continually blur.

    “We were created to provide computational resources to faculty and to conduct innovative research in biomedical informatics,”says Hutton, who directs the Division, “But it was also clear that we needed to collaborate closely with the clinical side.”

    That collaboration has earned the Division national recognition.

    “We are nationally known for being closely integrated with the hospital,” Hutton says, a reputation he attributes to an expertly trained and talented team. “It’s the ability of our faculty who are trained in computer science to understand and work within a medical environment.”

    The Division has 60 staff members and 24 faculty, many with graduate degrees in bioinformatics as well as medical degrees. A number are practicing pediatricians or specialists who work in the hospital.

    All use their skills to solve research questions and clinical problems aimed at improving the care of children, says Hutton.

    “We have embedded throughout the medical center our ability to handle data – to capture, organize, analyze, and protect it. We do it on the research side and in clinical operations. But our goal in both is, how do we make life better, how do we improve therapies, how do we help clinicians and researchers understand what improves the quality of care and outcomes? All of that is data-based; you have to have proper data sets to get outcomes that are believable and statistically credible. That’s where we come in.” 

    The stories in this issue represent just some of the ways in which the Division of Biomedical Informatics is changing the  delivery of medical care – and the outcomes for patients – here at Cincinnati Children’s. 

    Get more information about the Division’s work.

  • John Hutton, MD.
    Although developed to support research, Biomedical Informatics has also become invaluable in improving clinical care and treatment, says Dr. John Hutton.