With its recent announcement of the establishment of the Health Informatics Institute at the University of Buffalo, Dell has added to its already big bet on its healthcare IT business. The UB health system encompasses about 450 physicians and the goal of this effort is to use the collective data of these practices to improve the health of the whole population being cared for. Basically, the project is as follows: Dell installs a high-end computing cluster that will enable researchers at the University of Buffalo to analyze enormous amounts of data being collected by their own clinicians. Imagine it as small-scale effort of the national health informatics system envisioned by recent legislation.
What’s interesting about this project isn’t really even the project itself – there are efforts like this underway all over the country. What’s worth noting about the UB health informatics center is that Dell is taking part. We recently took a look at the Dell Streak, a sort of tablet-smartphone hybrid designed with the healthcare community in mind. Taken together, it looks like Dell is moving to provide the most complete IT solution to date of practically any vendor out there.
With the Streak, we have a front-end device both designed to improve workflow and to collect data. With this computing cluster, we get a back-end system to analyze the data being collected and, ideally, come up with clinically useful information that can be directly implemented via the device already in the hands of clinicians. In between is the whole suite of hardware and software developed by Dell’s healthcare division.
There is a lot of potential in having a single system that can collect and analyze data, and then directly feed it back into the hands of clinicians. These types of industry-academic collaborative efforts can help shape such a system in a way that is genuinely useful – one designed by clinicians rather than by engineers or developers. Furthermore, it avoids a lot of the interoperability issues that plague standard IT infrastructures.
Now, to be fair, I want to make it clear that a lot of this is imagined benefit and far from proven. Dell certainly has a long way to go before they become a proven and effective force in healthcare IT. And there are a lot of other vendors with, for example, mature EMR’s that already pool data for analysis. The difference here is that Dell would be the first building both the hardware and software. Its a big bet and I for one am excited to see how it plays out.