Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine: Improving healthcare by integrating patient records and genetic data using Google Cloud Platform and Tableau

The Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM), a partnership among the University of Colorado Denver, University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), Children’s Hospital Colorado, and University of Colorado School of Medicine (CU Medicine), is conducting breakthrough research through the analysis of patient DNA to predict disease risk and develop targeted treatments based on an individual’s genetics. This research requires examining the genetic makeup and health history of thousands of patients to reveal patterns showing how people with particular genetic profiles tend to get certain diseases and whether they could benefit from specific treatments. Integrating this data so that is usable, fast, and secure is a significant challenge.

To address those concerns, CCPM relies on Health Data Compass, an enterprise health data warehouse. Health Data Compass integrates patient genomic data from CCPM and electronic health records from UCHealth, Children's Hospital Colorado, and CU Medicine including external records such as insurance claims, public health records, and environmental data. Eventually, it will encompass data from social media, wearable devices, and more.

Health Data Compass previously used a traditional on-premises system to store and analyze data. But that approach proved costly to maintain and didn’t scale for the center’s current analytics needs, let alone the organization’s projected growth. Following a comprehensive six-month pilot project, Health Data Compass migrated to the Google Cloud Platform and Tableau Software, which together can handle massive data sets and powerful visual data analyses, while costing less and allowing for easy scalability as CCPM grows. Significant to CCPM’s decision was the ability of Google Cloud Platform including Google BigQuery to support HIPAA compliance per CCPM’s requirements.

“We take our responsibility to protect patient data very seriously. The Google Cloud Platform provides significant advantages in data security over on-premises systems and helps us achieve HIPAA compliance.” — Michael Ames, Associate Director for Health Data Compass and Director of Enterprise Architecture for CCPM

Drilling down into genomic data

Health Data Compass uploads data from multiple sources to Google Cloud Storage, which is less expensive and more scalable than Health Data Compass’s on-site storage. From Google Cloud Storage, data is routed to Google Genomics and Google BigQuery, where a wide range of analytics is performed.

Google BigQuery provided an unexpected benefit for one of Health Data Compass’s key services: probabilistic record linkage algorithms. Information about patients comes from multiple sources, so Health Data Compass needs to ensure that records aren’t duplicated. For example, it must determine whether ‘Bobby Peterson’ treated as a youth at Children's Hospital Colorado is the same as ‘Roberta Peterson’ treated as an adult years later at UCHealth. Compass holds records for nearly 6 million patients, so this algorithm requires tremendous processing power. Health Data Compass’s original on-premises infrastructure took eight hours to complete the job. With Google BigQuery, it is completed in 15 minutes and at a fraction of the cost.

Health Data Compass is developing tools to drill deeper into this data to quickly find answers. It uses Tableau’s self-service visual analytics platform with optimized connectivity to Google BigQuery for live analysis directly against the data in Google BigQuery. Tableau enables role based dashboards for clinicians and researchers who are not data scientists to get useful insights from the data in a governed and secure data environment. Health Data Compass also deployed their Tableau implementation in the cloud on Google Compute Engine.

"Self-service data discovery and visual analytics from Tableau with Google BigQuery will enable researchers and clinicians to use Health Data Compass to quickly identify and understand patterns in genomic data to improve quality, lower costs, and accelerate delivering care, for superior patient outcomes. This is the future now." — Andy De, Managing Director and General Manager for Healthcare and Life Sciences, Tableau Software

Faster and better answers at less cost

Health Data Compass successfully completed its comprehensive pilot project using Google Cloud Platform and expects to capture considerable benefits when it goes into full production this year. Analysts can perform queries much faster with Google BigQuery than with the previous solution. As a result, they can iterate alternative data queries with clinicians and researchers to extract complex concepts. In addition, Health Data Compass expects to dramatically cut operating costs including software, hardware, maintenance and support.

With Google Cloud Platform, Health Data Compass scales quickly without having to add hardware. It can also more easily integrate data from new sources, because it doesn’t have to contend with complex issues such as opening up ports and firewalls and setting up FTP servers. In addition to the hospitals that University of Colorado partners with, such as UCHealth and Children’s Hospital Colorado, Health Data Compass also pulls in state public health department data, weather data, insurance claims data, and data from other sources.

“Combining genomics with clinical data and the exploding diversity of other personal data to provide individualized patient care is the frontier of medicine and research. Google Cloud Platform and Tableau provide us with the big data processing and analytics power we need to give researchers tools to improve healthcare for millions of people,” says Ames.