Mining for medical gold: Joslin’s Electronic Medical Records

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Throughout National Diabetes Month, we will be sharing insights into Joslin’s innovations in care for diabetes and its complications as part of our mission of preventing, treating and curing diabetes. Our vision is a world free of diabetes and its complications.

This week, delve into the world of big data and learn how this information can help improve research and care.

mehta (59)Among his many accomplishments, Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., our founder, was the world’s first diabetes epidemiologist.

In 1898, he began recording patient data in log books that he maintained throughout his long career. He insisted that his staff follow suit, and that practice never stopped. Today, Joslin serves more than 25,000 diabetes patients each year and has developed a rich repository of data. All these data have been stripped of anything that could identify a patient, allowing doctors and researchers to mine the information for details that could improve diabetes care.

“We’ve developed a uniform way to enter data into the patient’s electronic health record (EHR),” says Sanjeev Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Quality (pictured above). “This allows us to collect and analyze a tremendous amount of information, which can be used to understand the effectiveness of our care models and design new studies. Future linkages to clinical trial data and external databases will enhance our understanding of the data stored in our EHR database.”

For example, a search of the databases may illuminate the relationship between Joslin care delivery and patients’ health outcomes in reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications. Additionally, data can be used to design weight-loss programs that work more effectively in different populations, based on specific demographic and clinical characteristics detailed in the Joslin EHR database.

Dr. Mehta is working on several initiatives to support the development of national registries for type 1 and type 2 diabetes with the goal of translating our local expertise to a broader audience and ensuring that the best clinical care is always being delivered at Joslin.

Tune in on Wednesday to learn about how using these data led to a worldwide clinical trial aiming to find a drug that will help type 1 people with kidney failure.

Photo credit: John Soares

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2 Responses to Mining for medical gold: Joslin’s Electronic Medical Records

  1. Wendy Hanawalt says:

    I wonder if you have any way to track individual patients. For the purposes of family medical histories, we’re trying to track my grandmother. We know that she had diabetes, because once a year or so, she would travel down from Maine for her trip to the Joslin. (That was back in the late 50’s.) But we don’t know whether she had Type 1 or Type 2. We’re assuming Type 2, but I thought that if you do have records that far back, we might be able to track her? We have both Type 1 and Type 2 in our family now