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IBM R&D Labs in Israel News

Helping physicians make better decisions

November 21, 2007

When patients are faced with critical, life-threatening dilemmas, physicians sometimes find themselves with insufficient resources to make the best possible decision, especially in emergency situations. A recent conference held at the IBM R&D Labs in Israel focused on those technologies that underlie clinical decision support (CDS) applications at times when healthcare professionals need it most.

The IBM Haifa Healthcare and Life Sciences Seminar 2007 brought together dozens of Israeli medical professionals and IT experts working in the healthcare domain. The major talks at the event addressed the challenge of how decision support applications can share the abundance of available information and facilitate the actual use of this information by clinicians.

According to Amnon Shabo, a researcher in the IBM Haifa Research Lab and one of the conference organizers, using IT to assist physicians is becoming an increasingly important issue in the healthcare world.

"Sometimes, healthcare is like a train that's stuck on the rails," he explained. "CDS can help get things moving by helping those at the first line of care - doctors and patients. We're trying to see how IT can help on a clinical level with such things as disease management, prognoses, alternative diagnoses, and treatment."

Professor Reinhold Haux from the Faculty for Mathematics and Computer Science at Braunschweig Technical University in Germany delivered the keynote talk at the event. The president of the International Medical Informatics Association, Dr. Haux presented an overview of previous and current deployments of knowledge-based decision support in healthcare and described the future challenges in the domain.

Another talk that addressed CDS was a special guest presentation by Dr. Dipak Kalra, a clinical senior lecturer at the Center for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education at University College in London. The leader of the CEN and ISO Task Forces producing an international electronic health records (EHR) communications standard, Dr. Kalra examined the dependability of EHRs for decision support.

Other topics of interest at the seminar included privacy in healthcare; regional healthcare cooperation in the Middle East, focusing on the sharing of public health data; and the EuResist project, a European Union research project working on creating an integrated system for the clinical management of antiretroviral drug resistance in HIV treatment. In addition, Israeli research groups at Ben Gurion University and the University of Haifa headed by Prof. Yuval Shahar and Dr. Mor Peleg, respectively, delivered talks on time-oriented monitoring and data exploration as well as clustering analysis and ontological methods.

The event was capped off by a panel discussion, initiated by a presentation of a CDS test case on family health history. The decision support test case is based on a collaborative effort between researchers from IBM Haifa and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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