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Considering Building a Healthcare Database? Take Some Lessons from Boston’s OM1


Yesterday, Boston-based OM1 announced that its rheumatoid arthritis registry had reached more than 100,000 patients. And while this chronic autoimmune disease only affects an estimated 1 percent of the world population — more than 1.5 million Americans — the data registry allows for more personalized care and could be used to fight other ailments.

Large databases such as OM1’s are powerful because they have the potential to help patient outcomes by informing clinicians of the best practices and treatments that are most likely to benefit patients.

Today we at MedTech Boston had the opportunity to talk to the CEO of OM1, Richard Gliklich, M.D., who’s also a part-time professor at Harvard Medical School, about the benefits and challenges of maintaining a large database and its implications for healthcare in general.

Understanding the Advantages of Databases

So, how can these databases benefit healthcare organizations?

Well, the rheumatoid arthritis database gave rheumatologists and patients insights on which medications would work best for the patient and possible adverse effects and secondary conditions that may be brought on, such as heart disease or the need for joint replacement.

“Having a large amount of data on those patients and being able to look broadly at the long-term impact, you can provide more education to patients and physicians,” Gliklich told us.

While OM1’s rheumatoid arthritis registry is used for a rather small population and helps clinicians better understand treatment options, adherence and outcomes, there are, of course, many kinds of healthcare databases that yield different benefits. Take genetic databases for genetic variants, which promote data sharing and can be used to support the claims of researchers. Rare disease databases, meanwhile, have helped train powerful machine-learning algorithms.

The takeaway is that collecting large quantities of data can help researchers and clinicians learn about the potential outcomes and treatment plans for any number of diseases. If a healthcare organization has the proper resources and vision, they can most certainly reap any number of benefits from a database.

OM1, for instance, can help clinicians understand how patients are adhering to their medications. The data and analytic tools can help determine which meds are working best to fight the condition, which is not only beneficial to the patients but also prescribers and pharmaceutical companies.

Overcoming Database Obstacles

But with any database that contains complex, personal information, measures need to be taken to protect the data it holds.

It takes high-powered data systems to take information from all over the country to make the data similar and ready for analysis, Gliklich told us.

And there are always missing data points, he added, because sometimes a patients don’t fully report their information.

The perks seem to outweigh the bumps in the road, though.

“The high availability and clinical depth of the registry data enables different healthcare stakeholders to rapidly and cost-effectively answer important questions around natural history, disease progression and treatment outcomes,” Gliklich said.

Overall, building databases can result in personalized care being used more broadly across health systems, which will improve patient outcomes. And when health-tech organizations assemble a powerful database, they can make it available for study and even cash in on licensing fees — just as OM1 is doing.

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