Medicine: Using Data to Improve Health Care

Together, iiD and Duke Medicine are accelerating society’s progress toward personalized health care. This fusion has the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes, the cost-effectiveness of treatment, and the overall health and well-being of individuals and communities. 

Professor Lawrence Carin
Professor Lawerence Carin

Professor Lawrence Carin, Vice Provost for Research, is partnering with Duke Medicine on several ambitious projects. He is harnessing, integrating, and putting to use an array of data to improve health care, including genomic information, personal and disease history, and psychosocial characteristics.

Carin is working with Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Executive Director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Duke Medicine, on using a patient’s genomic information to accurately and immediately diagnose infectious diseases. Carin and Ginsburg are studying infections in primates by using signal processing to find patterns in the mRNA “data” of their subjects’ bloodwork. This allows one to accurately dis- tinguish illness caused by a virus from that caused by bacteria.

The researchers have also developed an inexpensive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) chip that, once adopted by hospitals, could quickly scan for these genes in patients. The idea is that if a patient came into the ER with a fever, a doctor could do a simple genomic test to determine whether the symptom is caused by a virus or bacteria. This means patients could be treated earlier, speeding their recovery, heading off potential health complications, and even preventing a serious outbreak of disease.

More recently, Carin teamed with Dr. Robert Califf, former Director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute and Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research, on a joint iiD-Duke Medicine project on the statistical analysis of electronic medical records. This big data project will leverage advanced mathematics and Duke’s extensive medical records database, to infer medical best practices based on the broad recorded experience of Duke’s clinical medicine system.

“The principal goal of this research is to bring together Duke’s excellence in medicine with advanced mathematics and statistics, to improve the health of people across the world,” says Carin.