iSOFT, a CSC company, and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust are to jointly explore using new software to extract and anonymise clinical information for research and clinical trials, in one of the first projects of its type in the UK. "Clinical information held by NHS trusts is of huge value in clinical research and offers these trusts a potential income stream," said Dr Joerg Kraenzlein, iSOFT's director of life sciences.
"A key goal is to prove that our solution is able to extract a broader range of clinical information than is currently possible and at a fraction of the time and cost.
"Current methods normally involve trawling through records manually, which is time consuming and unreliable as records are often missed or lack relevance. The project will potentially save months in the planning and execution phase of clinical trials," Kraenzlein said.
Under the project, CliniWorks' AccelFind software will be interfaced to Southampton's clinical systems to extract and de-identify information about cancers and other diseases, and heart and blood conditions from one million records. It will also collect and structure information on diagnoses, treatments, medications and outcomes into a format that supports research and clinical trials.
Southampton has a history of identifying patients for clinical trials. The city’s partnership between the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust saw 13,464 patients recruited to clinical trials during 2010-11, making it the one of the top three centres in England.
Adrian Byrne, Southampton's chief information officer, said: “Southampton is already a leader in involving patients in research programmes and we are happy that we can work with iSOFT to improve this and ensure that more patients obtain access to the latest and best treatments."
iSOFT signalled its intent to move into the life sciences space, after agreeing a deal with US-based CliniWorks for AccelFind, which is developed to extract medical knowledge from any type of data, including free text notes, discharge summaries or the structured data found in electronic medical records.
"Drug development is an extremely expensive business and typically costs up to US$1 billion to bring a single drug to market," Kraenzlein said.
"The process of recruiting patients for clinical trials is the most critical element, causing 80% of trials to run over time and budget, with an average of 90 days and £1.3 million in lost sales, so anything that reduces time and cost will interest pharmaceutical companies greatly.
"Through our partnership with Southampton and CliniWorks, we can move to developing solutions which will speed the feasibility and patient recruitment processes and so help execute trials on time and budget."
iSOFT's chief medical officer, Dr Michael Dahlweid, said: "This is a beacon project which paves the way for healthcare organisations to move beyond collecting data for use during patient care, to using the data for advanced analysis, prediction and improved drug discovery. The potential benefits to patients are significant."
"The ability to extract meaningful information from various data sources and formats is a challenge in today's healthcare IT systems," says Nitzan Sneh, CliniWorks' chief executive officer. "Leveraging technology that can aggregate and analyse all types of medical data will allow for better management of healthcare treatment and costs, as well as provide clinicians with the ability to better understand health outcomes."