UPDATED 09:00 EST / FEBRUARY 11 2021

BIG DATA

Healthcare providers back Truveta to form anonymized data platform for research

A new health data platform led by former longtime Microsoft Corp. executive Terry Myerson and backed by 14 leading healthcare providers is exiting stealth mode today with the goal of accelerating medical research.

Truveta is building an enormous, anonymized data set that combines clinical and patient data from each its health system partners, in order to create a much more valuable trove of information that will be made available for what it calls “ethical research.”

What’s unique about Truveta is its backers. Whereas other companies in the past have tried to aggregate healthcare data from various sources and make it available to researchers, they have always faced difficulties in getting hold of that information in the first place. Healthcare providers have long been wary of sharing their data with anyone, as medical data is closely guarded thanks to privacy concerns.

In an interview with SiliconANGLE, Myerson said that healthcare data is “an untapped frontier” and that it simply hasn’t been made available before. “Health data is the definition of personal data,” he said. “It’s very important this data is thoroughly anonymized.”

That’s one thing what makes Truveta different. The company was created as a joint initiative by healthcare providers that include AdventHealth, Advocate Aurora Health, Baptist Health of Northeast Florida, Bon Secours Mercy Health, CommonSpirit Health, Hawaii Pacific Health, Henry Ford Health System, Memorial Hermann Health System, Northwell Health, Novant Health, Providence health system, Sentara Healthcare, Tenet Health and Trinity Health.

Truveta’s data platform will aggregate information from each of these providers to create what is very possibly the largest medical dataset ever made available to researchers. “Our health system partners have a stake in our success,” Myerson said. “In prior situations, there was a tech company trying to get data,” he added, explaining that it’s the other way round with Truveta.

Myerson was more guarded when pressed on the specific kinds of research the Truveta platform is intended for. But the company does provide a few clues.

It points out that if the Truveta platform had existed before the COVID-19 pandemic began, it would have helped healthcare professionals to learn which treatment paths were more successful, much faster than they did in reality. And it would help provide answers to important questions around the most effective medications, and questions such as why African American men have significantly higher mortality rates, and why almost one-third of the U.S. nurses who died from COVID-19 were of Filipino origin.

But Truveta’s platform goes far beyond COVID-19, Myerson said. “COVID-19 gave birth to Truveta, but anonymized data can really improve all health outcomes,” he said, adding that every disease and medical condition can benefit from better data for research.

Ultimately, Truveta’s stated goal is to “save lives with data” by digging up new insights using technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. The platform will combine both structured and unstructured data from its partners, including things such as clinicians notes and medical scans, and try to normalize this information, ready for more aggregate analysis of various medical conditions, therapies and drugs, ultimately providing more insights for physicians, researchers and biopharma.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc., told SiliconANGLE that we’re now in the era of infinite computing that has been made possible by the availability of affordable, cloud-based compute power and storage systems. Infinite computing also enables what Mueller calls “infinite insights,” and that, he said, is what Truveta is trying to deliver in the healthcare industry.

“There is special opportunity in healthcare, where the benefits from infinite insights have the potential to save lives,” Mueller said. “It’s good to see Truveta with a software industry veteran like Myerson at the helm trying to deliver on this opportunity. As with all healthcare endeavors, data privacy is the main point of resistance that needs to be addressed.”

The need for privacy is one reason why Truveta’s health provider partners will play a big role in its future direction, with their representatives serving on its Board of Governors to provide advice and leadership on things such as ethics and health equity, data integrity and clinical outcomes to ensure the company sticks to its stated mission.

“The future of health care is collaborative,” said CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean. “We in healthcare exist side-by-side in our communities and we need to prioritize cooperation to truly make a difference.”

With reporting from Robert Hof

Photo: rawpixel/freepik

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