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Tools for tackling problems

Northrop Grumman is developing products in the health-care analytics field

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Print this page by Robert Burke

Imagine if your doctor could spend more time paying attention to you during a visit and less time typing notes in a computer. Or, what if there were a way to organize the mass of data that floods the U.S. health-care system every day in a way that revealed what works and what doesn’t.

Increasingly the volume of data is blocking advances in medical care and affecting how health-care dollars are spent. Northrop Grumman Information Systems is trying to solve those issues — and grab a share of a growing market in health-care analytics — with a pair of new products.

First is what is called Clinician App. It’s a tablet-based program that gives doctors or other health providers quick access to a patient’s health records. The application is designed to provide clinicians the data needed for a patient visit in an organized and useful way. Clinicians also can enter the details of the visit directly into the tablet for storage in the main database. It’s designed to fit into the U.S. military’s electronic health records system, known as AHLTA (which originally stood for Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application.)

Developers are looking to launch a pilot program in the next six months, says Karen Chapman, a project manager for veterans and military programs in Northrop Grumman’s Health IT department.

Developers think potential customers will like Clinician App because it runs on a 7-inch tablet and fits atop the hardware and software they already have in place. It is designed to improve users’ day-to-day efficiency and let them access the data already in the system as well as input data into the system from the tablet.

In developing Clinician App, Northrop Grumman partnered with Medicomp Systems, a small, Chantilly-based company that developed some of the military health-care technology already in use. Medicomp Systems created software called Quippe, which is powered by Medicomp’s MEDCIN Engine,  a “knowledge engine’ that is already being used by AHLTA.  MEDCIN Engine provides the documentation capability in the Clinician App. Through Quippe, clinicians can get customized views of information that matches a patient’s needs. This capability that increases documentation efficiency and improves the accuracy of the clinical note.

Dave Lareau, Medicomp’s CEO, says the Clinician App is starting out in the military electronic health records systems, but he hopes it will move into the commercial area as well. “Although this started as something for the military, when we start showing it [in] other arenas they say, ‘Hey, I want that, too.’” Chapman notes that “every doctor has to take vital signs; they have to write notes and orders. The idea that we can be on the front end to any [health record] is definitely a possibility.”

Northrop Grumman’s second new product takes a much broader view. Dubbed iHAP, for integrated health analytics platform, it is designed to let really big users such as state and federal agencies keep their “legacy” hardware and systems in place. The platform provides a way to use those existing systems to tackle a variety of problems. Deciding what treatments work best, for example, or rooting out fraud.

“It’s primarily a research tool” for users, says Morgan Crafts, director of technology for health IT for Northrop Grumman. “We can go into federal, state or local health-care organizations and look across all their [data] silos and provide them with useful information.
“It can look at things ranging from hospital-acquired infections all the way down to what the clinical care or requirements are for an individual patient,” he says.

There is a growing need for better analytical tools in health care, according to Crafts. For example, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 could bring an estimated 16 million more people under Medicaid coverage, he says. How will providers figure out the best way to expand that coverage? “All of these organizations that are federal and state-based are already paying a tremendous amount of money every year on the operation and maintenance of tons of products and services. They see an opportunity to reduce those splintered costs.”

Like the Clinician App, the iHAP system is new, but Northrop Grumman is including it in a number of bids for federal- and state-level contracts, Crafts says. Northrop Grumman is working with the state of Oregon to fine tune the new technology. 

Crafts says that though the system is best suited for users trying to manage vast mounts of data, it’s capable of working on a much smaller scale. “We really are looking at everything from national data to state data to clinical data, all the way down to the individual,” he says. “I think it’s an exciting time for analytics in the health-care market. We’ve been collecting data for a long time, and now we’re at a point where we can gather all kinds of types and formats and improve outcomes and reduce costs.”

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