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New UT System Clinical Data Network to advance patient care, best practices

AUSTIN—The University of Texas System is launching a Clinical Data Network to better leverage its size and expertise to drive more efficient and improved health care delivery.  

The Board of Regents Thursday approved $12.4 million from the Available University Fund to be used over the next four years to develop and establish the System-wide network. The initiative advances Chancellor William H. McRaven’s Quantum Leap to increase collaboration among health institutions to provide Texans with the finest health care possible.

“We measure our performance by the data that is available to us,” said Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “Right now, our clinical data reside at individual institutions. We have no way of getting a global picture of what’s going on within our health care enterprise. We see tremendous value in integrating our information sources and learning from each other.”

University of Texas System-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics handle more than 6.78 million outpatient visits and account for more than 1.38 million hospital days annually.

Having access to aggregated clinical data has numerous benefits, including helping health care providers make better decisions about patient care, said Elmer Bernstam, M.D., associate dean for research and professor at UTHealth’s School of Biomedical Informatics in Houston – the only free-standing school in the nation that specializes in health care, analytics and data systems.

For example, data can show which management strategies have the best success rate with various conditions. And on the administrative side, data can show the cost of procedures at individual institutions compared to System-wide.

“This is an attempt to organize the institutions and combine their internal efforts and meet the needs of each institution individually and collectively,” said Bernstam, who is leading the development of the Clinical Data Network. “The goal, of course, is more efficient, safer and more effective health care for Texans and beyond Texas.”

In addition, access to large amounts of data will give an advantage to UT institutions when they compete for research funding from both public and private sources, such as the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical and biosciences industries, Bernstam said.

The Clinical Data Network initially will include all six UT health institutions.

“The study and application of informatics has become increasingly important to biomedical research, and the UT System is an established leader in the field,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., president of UTHealth. “The UT System Clinical Data Network will create unique opportunities for institutions across Texas to advance biomedical discovery, patient quality and safety and population health.”

Before approving funding for the Clinical Data Network, Regents had an extensive discussion about how the data could ultimately be used to guide public policy and provide cost savings.

“I hope we use this as a beginning of a process and not the end of a process to remove parochialism within the System … and outside of the System … to communicate and assess this critically important information, which can be used to advance population health and personal health,” Regent Alex Cranberg said.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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