Canadian Healthcare Technology – Heart-SIGN will help arrhythmia researchers find and share answers

Solving cardiac arrhythmia research queries, like many other types of medical research probes, can take years. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Network of Canada (CANet) has partnered with IBM on a mission to change that with a new cloud-based research platform designed to speed query time from a matter of years to just minutes.

Called Heart-SIGN (System for Information Gathering and Networking), the new analytics platform will manage, monitor, store, correlate and analyze data from all CANet research projects. Most important, it will facilitate sharing of findings between researchers.

CANet, based at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., is a multi-disciplinary network that brings together families, government and leading hospitals and universities, including University Health Network, Hamilton Health Sciences, Sunnybrook, and others. They fund a number of research initiatives across Canada.

“The concept is that instead of doing the research individually, they wanted a platform for sharing of results,” says Nathalie LeProhon, Vice President, Healthcare, IBM Canada.

CANet is using IBM BigInsights, a set of cloud-based analytical tools that are open source, explains LeProhon, plus IBM’s Watson Analytics to build an informatics platform to help spark new ideas and share research related to heart rhythm disturbances.

This combination of IBM cloud technology and the cognitive computing power of Watson Analytics will enable researchers and clinicians to quickly sort through data in a single interface and find in minutes what previously would have taken years.

The faster route from query to insight is a key benefit, but so is the idea of easier sharing of information, which will likely result in better, deeper insights. Findings will come from and be used by CANet’s network of more than 100 healthcare professionals, patients, academia, government, and industry experts. As LeProhon notes, once you ave 100 healthcare professionals putting their data on the platform, you can do so much more.

Cardiac arrhythmia is a set of conditions that include irregular heartbeats, or a heart beating too fast or too slow. It dramatically affects productivity and quality of life, and can cause sudden cardiac death. In Canada, arrhythmia takes the lives of approximately 40,000 people per year. Other disorders, such as atrial fibrillation, also stem from the condition and affect 350,000 Canadians.

Over the next three years, CANet has planned a strategic focus on three major cardiovascular research challenges – diagnosis, recognition, and treatment.

This cloud-based research platform will integrate the research strengths of CANet with the analytical strengths of IBM to transform and accelerate the way arrhythmia research is performed.

The sheer volume and continuous growth of complex, big data has been overwhelming for the healthcare industry. LeProhon has observed that this platform will mean “less time sifting through data, and more time gaining insights, and for delivery transformation where it’s needed the most.” The platform should help deliver faster, more cohesive clinical outcomes.

Heart-SIGN is another example of the power of this type of technology to change the future of healthcare. “This is not about machine replacing man … it’s about embracing, leveraging doctors’ and researchers’ capabilities through the power of machine,” says LeProhon.

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This article was originally published in the February issue of Canadian Healthcare Technology (page 8).

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