By Howard J. Anderson, Executive Editor Data mining can be the foundation for meaningful changes in the practice of medicine. Inova Health System has evidence that proves this is far more than just a hypothesis. The Falls Church, Va.-based system, which owns five hospitals, is using the information pinpointed by data mining to help devise new clinical processes. Then it's using its electronic health records system to guide clinicians on how to follow those processes, providing rules and alerts to steer them on the right path. The result? Serious safety events-those that cause serious harm or even death-declined by 60% from May 2005 to February 2009 at Inova's hospitals. Hospital-acquired infections declined 60% during the same period. And the mortality rate has substantially declined.

Inova is using Web-based data mining software called Quality Manager from Premier Inc., a Charlotte, N.C.-based purchasing alliance. It's a participant in Premier's Quest, a quality improvement benchmarking project. The alliance recently announced that it will expand the project beyond the original 166 hospitals. "Quality Manager allows us to analyze the opportunities we have to put new processes in place," says Stephen Moore, M.D., Inova's senior vice president, clinical quality and patient safety. "Then we use the EHR to ensure in real time that key processes occur." The clinical system, from GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis., includes treatment protocols that alert nurses to appropriate protocols while they complete documentation of cases, Moore notes. Premier Inc. acquired Quality Manager from the now defunct Care Science Corp. David Brailer, M.D., former national coordinator for health information technology, led that company when it developed the data mining application in the 1990s.

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