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University of Texas Medical Branch
UTMB Health awarded $1M for technology advances
News Release
Tuesday, November 09, 2010

GALVESTON, Texas — The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has received two $500,000 grants for health information technology. The funds, awarded by the UT System Chancellor’s Health Fellow, will be used to improve clinical care quality and outcomes.

“We are pleased to be awarded the grants for these two important projects from the UT System,” said Dr. Steve Quach, chief medical officer for UTMB Health. “Health information technology has great potential to improve health care practice and coordination, which ultimately improves the care we provide our patients.”

The first project will allow researchers at UTMB Health access to an extensive collection of the hospital’s clinical data, with patient identities removed. Obtaining clinical data for research and educational use can be challenging at many academic health centers, according to Bruce Luxon, director of biomedical informatics. 

“It important for investigators to have the data available to test hypotheses early in the research process,” said Luxon. “The grant will allow us to create an infrastructure and process to meet the needs of UTMB researchers before and during funded research.” The data also will be available to other biomedical researchers and institutions around the world, creating a global collaborative effort.

The new framework will bridge clinical research data and the vast data banks arising from basic science, and help researchers to better understand the genetic origins of complex diseases. The process will make the clinical data available to all investigators, while ensuring the identity of patients is never compromised.

The second project will fund an integrated computer-based system for patients hospitalized at UTMB Health with congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“The goal is to track these patients closely and act proactively to prevent avoidable hospitalizations,” said Dr. Gulshan Sharma, principal investigator on the project. “We will also develop a model that can be used for other conditions and by other organizations to improve patient outcomes.”

Sharma hopes to see an increase in the percentage of patients seen in an outpatient clinic within 14 days of discharge to reduce avoidable readmission and emergency room visits.

The UT System Office of Health Affairs established the Chancellor’s Health Fellows program to maximize improvements in education, research, and patient care among the system’s six health campuses.

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