NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – InterSystems, a provider of data management and aggregation solutions, this week announced a collaboration with the Center for Integrated Diagnostics (CID) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) that will focus on exploring how the company's HealthShare health informatics platform can support genomic and clinical data integration and analysis activities at the center.
InterSystems' HealthShare is an information aggregation and management platform for health information that helps users capture, share, and explore large volumes of structured and unstructured health information from multiple systems and data formats. The system leverages two other general products developed by InterSystems, namely Cache, which is the company's database technology, and Ensemble, an application integration platform. HealthShare also offers value-added products and capabilities that are specific to the healthcare setting, such as clinical event notification services and mechanisms for protecting sensitive data and obtaining consent.
HealthShare is designed to handle the basic task of serving up the relevant aggregated data and it does so in an environment that is conducive to running various analysis applications for tasks such as pattern identification and data visualization, Qi Li, a physician executive at InterSystems and the company's acting director of product innovation, explained to GenomeWeb. Other uses for the system include care coordination, integrating disparate electronic health record systems, provider referrals, clinician notifications, identification of high-risk patients, and public health reporting.
It's used in multiple hospitals and health systems including MGH — which uses other InterSystems products — as well as by regional and statewide health information exchanges. For example, in Rhode Island it's used by the Rhode Island Quality Institute to aggregate and share information related to patients in the state. More recently, Healthfirst, a non-profit health plan that serves more than a million members in the New York City metropolitan areas, tapped HealthShare to aggregate and exchange clinical data pulled from its patients' medical records and other sources in a secure and efficient manner.
For this partnership, HealthShare will be used to combine genetic information with phenotype data, outcomes information, and other clinical data drawn from MGH's electronic medical record system. The pilot phase, which is looking to establish the basic functions of importing data into HealthShare and getting it back out, is already four months underway.
"The idea is to come out with a great clinical tool," said Long Phi Le, a pathologist working in the CID and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. The CID is rapidly expanding its next-generation sequencing testing with a technology called anchored multiplex PCR and acquiring a lot of genomic data. "We have quickly come to realize that genomic info by itself is not really that useful. If you find a mutation in isolation without context to interpret it, it's quite useless."
"We want to be able to gather information about phenotype and genomic variants, and put it into one solution so we can efficiently navigate through data and be able to quickly start to see patterns and relationships," Le said. Currently, any combination of phenotypic and genotypic information is done case-by-case and usually by hand.
Although the system has been used to aggregate clinical and other kinds of healthcare data in the past, this is the first time that HealthShare will be used to aggregate next-generation sequencing data, according to Li. However, InterSystems' technology is a natural fit for the space, he told GenomeWeb. Genomics researchers often have to work with datasets stored in disparate repositories and databases, which is precisely what InterSystems' technology is designed to handle. The system is extremely scalable, so it's able to work with large quantities of data and it can be optimized to support the sorts of research queries and analyses that customers want to run.
And practically anything would be an improvement over the way the CID currently manages genomic data, according to Le.
"In our current system, we're limited to a simple text file", said Le. "It’s nearly impossible to represent genomic information in a flat text file." Clinicians can't even bold or highlight text to draw attention to important data, he added.
InterSystems intends to pursue additional targets in the genomic analysis arena moving forward, Li said. It will do so by working closely with existing customers in the institutions and medical centers to provide services to clinicians and researchers working in molecular laboratories at these sites. It also plans to work more closely with specialized software and services companies that already use omics data for large-scale analysis and targeted decision support, Li said. He added that HealthShare will probably be the primary offering for the space because it already has the necessary components that healthcare providers need.