Understanding What Medical Data Can Do in the Real World

Over a decade ago, Dr. Joseph Drozda, a cardiologist and director of Outcomes Research at Mercy, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the U.S., wondered about the medical devices being used with patients, and how they were being evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

Questions arose about patient side effects and benefits across many implanted surgical supplies and medical devices, including surgical mesh, metal-on-metal hip replacements, coronary stents, pacemakers, and more.

“We were relying on information from clinical trials,” shared Dr. Drozda. “These trials are done on very select groups with limited sample sizes and data sets, which can be significantly different than results in the real world.”

SAP Partner Mercy Technology Services Strives to Improve Medical Devices for Everyone

Working with various organizations and high-profile stakeholders, Mercy began its journey to harness real-world data to bring better clarity to medical devices’ real-world performance. Mercy’s early adoption of the electronic health record (EHR) meant there were millions of data points with potential for mining.

Mercy Technology Services, the information backbone of Mercy, began advancing data analytics capabilities to synthesize at the speed of thought, a myriad of data sources that included the electronic health records, financial systems, and external claims data. Mercy also pioneered unique device identification, and, through projects like the FDA-sponsored BUILD initiative, began making groundbreaking strides to help answer vital questions about device effectiveness.

Mercy and Mercy Technology Services paired this work with a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called natural language processing (NLP) for unlocking data often trapped in doctors’ notes within patients’ records. Their combined efforts would be key to the health system’s successful use of Real-World Evidence, and fuel Mercy’s current efforts to produce some of the best insights into the medical device industry.

When asked about the motivation behind this initiative, Dr. Drozda said, “We began this work to ensure the medical devices Mercy uses work for patients. With more than 8,000 new medical devices entering the market each year, it’s critical we find better ways to evaluate their performance.”

Mercy and the Next-Generation Partnering Initiative

Today, Mercy Technology Services is partnering with hospitals around the country to form its Real-World Evidence Insights Network, building on its current repository of anonymized patient data from electronic health records, among other sources, and establishing what has the potential to be the world’s largest database of Real-World Evidence. Powered by SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA service, the network can draw insights from millions of Mercy’s de-identified patient records.

“This positions Mercy at the forefront of by embracing the cloud and putting our customers – and our patients — at the center of our focus,” said Curtis Dudley, vice president of Enterprise, Analytics, and Data Service at Mercy.

“There are three factors that uniquely position Mercy for a nationwide data orchestration,” Dudley shared. “First, drug and device makers are supplied with curated data, refreshed regularly, instead of data dumps. It’s not uncommon for medical codes to evolve as a situation is correctly diagnosed. We leverage our intelligence to make sure logical, contextual information is pulled for a more accurate result. Second, for years we’ve been scanning the barcodes of all devices and link that back to the individual EHR, providing a more historical analysis. Third, we have a robust, award-winning NLP, extracting data from doctors’ notes for 80 percent more clinical information. For example, a clinical note on bone density would be a key data element to consider when evaluating joint conditions.”

Cloud Makes the Largest Real-World Evidence Database Possible

Through the Real-World Evidence Insights Network, shared data provides a real-world view across a network of possible risks and benefits of medical devices. With comparative benchmarks, participating healthcare providers can understand what is working for patients in their corner of the country and across the nation.

At the same time, it also has the power to share back to device manufacturers how a product is performing in the real world for improvement on existing products’ design and informing new product design for maximum patient benefits. Global health technology leaders Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic, and Becton Dickinson recently announced partnerships with Mercy, using Mercy Technology Services solutions to gain insight about the effectiveness of their medical devices and the clinical variables that factor into it.

“We’re excited about the benefits that arise from working in the cloud and to have a platform enabling us to bring in so many groups and diverse data sets,” Dudley said. “We envision so many possibilities for the future, including the potential to enhance this network even further by including patient input. This benefits us all.”


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