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Seattle Children’s Hospital uses Big Data for faster, more accurate diagnoses

Industry News

Seattle Children’s Hospital is using IBM Big Data technology to improve treatment of its young patients. With over 350,000 patient visits annually and thousands of data points associated with each patient, Seattle Children’s Hospital can run queries on patient data in seconds, rather than minutes, to provide quicker, more effective care and diagnosis.

Working with Brightlight and IBM and using the IBM PureData System for Analytics, Seattle Children’s Hospital doctors and nurses now have quicker and more accurate insights into the thousands of data points associated with each patient. Based on a specific question or issue to address, the system runs analytics on the data helping provide better insight into commonalities of treatments for diseases, for example. Physicians can then tailor treatments and prescribe medications more accurately.

Previously, these types of queries would take minutes or hours, causing delays and limiting the ability to use data to improve operations and care. Now, thanks to the IBM PureData System, some queries that were running in five minutes are now taking only four seconds. And other queries that used to take several weeks for an analyst to compile manually into spreadsheets are now accomplished on demand.

The result: Quicker, more effective analysis to improve care and diagnosis for patients.

The IBM PureData System for Analytics pulls together vast amounts of data from 10 different source systems at the hospital, including Electronic Medical Records, billing and general ledger systems, providing hospital staff with a holistic, on-demand view of trends in the patient care process. Clinicians can also look back and evaluate treatment protocols and determine where the hospital needs to allocate more resources.

The access to unprecedented amounts of data in today’s interconnected world creates an opportunity for deeper insight, earlier intervention and more informed decision-making. Yet, $750 billion continues to be wasted annually on missed opportunities along with unnecessary, error-prone and inefficiently delivered services (1).

“Working with Brightlight and using the IBM big data system, we are able to fully understand the hospital’s ‘Big Data’ – the thousands of data points associated with each child – immediately, as needed,” said Wendy Soethe, manager, Enterprise Data Warehouse at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “As we get deeper into data, we’re actually able to see new commonalities in treatments so we can better identify new protocols, make improvements in care, and ultimately make a difference in the type of care children are receiving.”

The hospital was previously using a Microsoft SQL Server data warehouse, yet needed to integrate the increasing amount of data in its electronic medical record and billing systems and initiate a high-priority program for the hospital – the Clinical Standard Work (CSW) program. The CSW program defines patient populations and prescribes an optimal protocol for each population, ensuring every patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital receives the same high standard of care.

Since the CSW program is a high priority for the hospital, a technology platform that could integrate many different systems for better analytics and reporting was critical. And, instead of analysts spending days pulling data from different systems into Excel spreadsheets or Access databases, Seattle Children’s Hospital needed a solution that was more efficient and provided self-service, on demand capabilities.

“The IBM PureData System for Analytics has provided the hospital with a way to deliver the right data to answer the right question at the right time,” Soethe said.

“We’re extremely excited for Seattle Children’s and what the future holds for their analytics capabilities now that they have an enterprise-class solution in place,” said David Overcash, CTO and co-founder of Brightlight Consulting. “With the right technology in place, we were able to work very closely with them to ensure a ‘best practice’ approach to the implementation so they could get optimal performance. They’re now in a position to really leverage data like never before, all in the name of providing better care for children, and we feel great about that!”

To view videos of how Seattle Children’s Hospital is turning Big Data into Smarter Care, visit and The case study can be found here:

(1) Institute of Medicine, “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America.”


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