Posted by Kerry Godes
Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing and Operations

Emergency clinicians and health care providers are great at saving lives and treating illnesses. But what if they could go beyond addressing immediate needs and be better prepared to help their patients and communities just by using the massive amounts of data currently locked up in patient case notes, social media feeds, school attendance logs and retail drug sales?

AscribeAscribe, a leading provider of clinically focused IT solutions used by an estimated 82 percent of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts, decided to create a pilot to answer these questions and help clinicians identify trends and improve services with faster access to information. With NHS’ ever-expanding sets of clinical data, Ascribe knew that a robust Big Data business intelligence (BI) solution could help their healthcare providers detect, predict, and respond more quickly to outbreaks of infectious disease and other health threats.

“If you think about each clinician who struggles with getting timely, accurate data, and you compound it on a national scale, then it becomes an immense challenge,” said Paul Henderson, Business Intelligence Division Head at Ascribe. “You have lots of small pieces of data coming in from multiple places, and it can be very difficult to aggregate and interpret.”

Ascribe worked with partner Two10Degrees to map unstructured data from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, one of the biggest NHS trusts in the UK, using a hybrid-cloud solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise software and the Windows Azure HDInsight Service, a cloud-based deployment of Apache Hadoop.

Leeds generates up to half a million records each year in its Accident and Emergency Department system and approximately one million unstructured case files each month. Using the HDInsight Service, currently in public preview, Ascribe was able to look at patterns in the data to identify potential outbreaks of infectious disease, as well as trends that are typically more difficult to analyze, such as alcohol-related visits to the emergency room and injuries from accidents in the home.

By working with an end-to-end stack of software and cloud-based services, Ascribe provided a Big Data solution that can improve healthcare at the local and national levels. “This is a new paradigm,” Henderson said. “With a solution based on SQL Server 2012 and Windows Azure HDInsight Service, we can capture data written in plain English and use it to improve services, instead of waiting for a resource-hungry process to collect and code the information. This will reinvent the way we work with medical records in the future.”

Ascribe also designed several applications that run on Windows 8 tablets, including a syndromic surveillance app, which compiles information about patients' symptoms during the early phases of illness. Active tiles on the Windows 8 desktop display real-time information allowing users to tell at a glance when the system sends an alert about a disease outbreak. “This isn’t about crunching statistics,” Henderson said. “It’s about compressing the time it takes to identify the problem and act on it the best way possible.” 

To learn more about how Ascribe’s Big Data solution is accelerating clinical insights, check out the full case study. To start applying HDInsight Service preview to your own real-world data challenges, please see the Windows Azure site