UW Today

This is an archived article.

December 8, 2010

UW Medicine to expand use of Microsoft Amalga to support clinical, translational research

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Based on the successful results of a two-year technology pilot program, UW Medicine will expand its use of Microsoft Amalga Unified Intelligence System (UIS), a data aggregation platform, to support multiple clinical and research initiatives across the health organization. UW Medicine has purchased a perpetual license to use Amalga UIS to improve clinical care, quality and human subjects-approved research by providing clinical and translational researchers with faster and more complete access to electronic data stored on disparate systems across the UW Medicine health system.

UW Medicine and Microsoft Corp. also have agreed to leverage their respective expertise in medicine and software development to maximize development of technologies that improve the delivery of healthcare. To that end, both parties have signed a memorandum of understanding under which they will work together in the area of biomedical informatics technology development.

For the past two years, UW Medicine’s Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) has been evaluating Amalga UIS as a tool to accelerate and improve translational research, which involves more quickly moving knowledge and discovery gained from the basic sciences to its application in clinical and community settings.

In UW Medicine’s large and comprehensive health system, gaining access to aggregate views of data is time- and labor-intensive, often hindering translational research with long delays between when a researcher needs a particular data set and when he or she receives it. In collaboration with the ITHS Biomedical Informatics Core, UW Medicine has used Amalga successfully to enroll patients in human subjects-approved research studies, collect study-specific data, link study data to clinical data and facilitate statistical analysis.

In addition, with the data asset provided by Amalga, UW Medicine researchers have been able to develop more than a dozen projects to improve patient safety and quality of care via rapid monitoring of clinical data. Examples include reports to decrease the incidence of pressure ulcers or bed sores, improve the care of diabetic patients, and help monitor and decrease the rate of central line associated bloodstream infections based on a common set of metrics and definitions across both University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center.

Amalga also has been used as part of initiatives to improve the quality of care UW Medicine provides for patients by tracking quality measures such as rates of hospital acquired infection and other measures mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as critical for improving quality and decreasing healthcare costs.

Encouraged by its experience with Amalga and impressed with the cooperation, innovation and support offered by Microsoft, UW Medicine has elected to purchase a perpetual license for the Amalga UIS, including the Amalga UIS Quality Measures module.

Under the new memorandum of understanding, UW Medicine and Microsoft will work together in the area of biomedical informatics technology development to increase the quality of disease management, improve the efficiency and cost of care delivery, and enhance the teaching, clinical and research missions of UW Medicine. The organizations also will work together to address federal initiatives to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of clinical care, which are part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Led by Dr. Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, UW professor and head of the Division of Biomedical and Health Informatics, and Sean Nolan, chief architect for the Microsoft Health Solutions Group, this collaboration builds on the unique and world-class strengths of both UW Medicine and Microsoft.

“The combination of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Biomedical Informatics Core and Amalga UIS has improved translational research by providing our researchers with access to all of the data they need when they need it, allowing them to conduct their work faster and more effectively,” Tarczy-Hornoch said. “By working together to help refine this product, both UW Medicine and Microsoft have committed to furthering the development of methods and tools that will help us unleash the enormous potential for electronic biomedical data to advance research and improve health.”

“What UW Medicine has achieved to date with Amalga in translational research and quality improvement demonstrates the power of liberating health data from separate systems and putting it into the hands of researchers and clinicians to use in multiple ways,” Nolan said. “We’re pleased to support UW Medicine’s leadership in medical research, education and patient care by advancing our collaboration and extending the capabilities of Amalga and other health solutions.”

Subject to approval by an institutional review board and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations, the Microsoft Amalga implementation at the University of Washington is intended to provide ITHS researchers with the ability to comprehensively access, search and perform analysis on data stored in UW medical record systems, UW research laboratory systems and study data management systems.

Microsoft Amalga is used at other renowned U.S. healthcare institutions including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Johns Hopkins Health System, Novant Health, St. Joseph Health System and the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange.