Southern Methodist University (SMU) has teamed up with Texas-based HMS, the Digital Health CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) and Stanford University to tackle some of the world’s most significant health challenges using ‘big data.’ Dallas Morning News’ business reporter Melissa Repko covered the news on the collaboration, which was announced on Tuesday.

There are two key health care challenges that the coalition is looking to address: the global opioid epidemic and the high rates of avoidable hospital readmissions. The first research project conducted by Stanford University students will tackle the opioid crisis. The second project–led by Daniel Heitjan, Director of the PhD Program in Biostatistics at SMU and UT Southwestern–will focus on preventable hospital readmissions, which is when patients unexpectedly return to a hospital within 30 days of an earlier hospital stay.

As Repko reported, HMS is providing a key piece of the puzzle: A massive database of more than 2 million patients that researchers can use to find patterns and flag people who are at risk. Researchers will use the Medicaid claims data that HMS clients agree to share. It will be stripped of personal details such as names and addresses that could identify a patient.

Created last year by the Australian government with a seven-year grant, the Digital Health CRC is comprised of more than 80 businesses, universities and health technology providers. Its goal, working with HMS, SMU and Stanford University, is to develop and test digital health solutions that will solve “a vexing problem for both the U.S. and Australia: Health care costs that are skyrocketing, even as outcomes lag behind,” Repko wrote.

Victor Pantano, chief executive of Digital Health CRC, said the immensity and significance of the project reminds him of the Apollo space program. He lives in Canberra, the Australian capital. It’s near a former NASA tracking station called Honeysuckle Creek. The tracking station — a collaboration between scientists in the U.S. and Australia — received and relayed to the world the first images of astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

 

Researchers from the two countries are partnering again to explore “one of the most exciting frontiers in the modern age: the use of big data and digital technologies to deliver better health systems and better health outcomes into the future,” he said.

Read the Dallas Morning News article here.