UCI, Syntropy join forces on research/care data project

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(John M Lund Photography Inc/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(John M Lund Photography Inc/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

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The University of California at Irvine and the data firm will work on solutions that help integrate health data for both clinical trials and patient care.

The University of California at Irvine, (UCI)—home to the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences—has announced a five-year partnership with healthcare data company Syntropy. The collaborators plan to work on solutions that transform how UCI Health Affairs and other health research and care entities integrate and contextualize health data.

Outsourcing-Pharma recently connected with experts from each of the two organizations; they shared insight into the collaboration, and the industry’s need for better data solutions:

  • Tom Andriola, UCI’s vice chancellor of information technology and data, and chief digital officer
  • James Kugler, director of Syntropy

OSP: How did Syntropy come to work with UCI—have you collaborated before?

James Kugler, director, Syntropy

JK: This is our first official partnership, the roots of which began when UCI started a technical evaluation of Syntropy in March of 2021. A broader collaboration was sought after this introduction and integration with the technology.

Both of our organizations recognized the potential to improve the delivery of healthcare to patients through better utilization of the ever-increasing volumes of data that are generated. Data is growing exponentially, 36% year over year while the percentage of data used in decision making is only 5% to 8%. Disappointingly, less than 1% of all data is used by patients to understand their health journey and make better decisions for themselves.

The culture of innovation at UCI is an ideal fit with Syntropy’s mission to foster innovation while preserving control of data for each data owner and stakeholder.

OSP: What about UCI and Syntropy’s goals and capabilities made the collaboration a good fit?

TA: From the onset, it was clear that Syntropy and UCI shared a common vision. We can most effectively accelerate research, improve patient outcomes, and imagine the future of healthcare through understanding data and leveraging it to spur scientific innovation. Our partnership will enable collaboration across the University of California and beyond, and ultimately support the well-being of patients.

UCI has long worked to improve patient care by harnessing innovative data-driven technologies. The partnership with Syntropy provides a world-class data platform combined with the expertise and vision which will power UCI’s continued efforts to leverage health information technology, data science, and AI to develop a deeper understanding of disease. That understanding, and the research that follows from it, will drive UCI to deliver the best care possible by taking insights from the patients we’ve treated before to help the patient we’re seeing tomorrow.

OSP: Could you please share your perspective on the evolution of health data technology, and advances in figuring out how to use the data more effectively and efficiently?

JK: As the promise of the enterprise data warehouse has not been realized, many have looked to technology to solve the hard problems with massive amounts of data: cleaning, curating, and contextualizing it. Unfortunately, automation in this space can only go so far. To truly maximize its value, content experts need to make decisions about the contextualization of data, ideally for specific use cases.

No doubt technology will continue to get better and help these experts in this process, but the real breakthroughs come in platforms that allow teams to quickly leverage prior curation work for their own research and analysis. The platform also remembers the new curation and context work that the team does and makes it available for the next researcher. In this way, the technology makes it easier for subsequent teams to solve problems more rapidly.

As more and more health systems put the work into their own data to make it more useful for their research and use cases, they also make it easier to collaborate with external partners. This means the opportunity for more data, made up of data from multiple health systems, with broader coverage and deeper insight which drives more complete outcomes. Ultimately these data technologies will continue to scale, making it easier to track pandemics, collect real-world data on diseases and therapeutics, and provide the platforms to solve the increasing challenges to public health.

UCI’s partnership with Syntropy provides the healthcare ecosystem an environment to integrate multimodal health data with the computational tools needed to empower clinicians and scientists to extract meaning from available data assets. By bringing together infinitely diverse data types into a common environment, leveraging workflow to curate and contextualize these data, we can apply advanced analytic and privacy-preserving tools to develop deeper insights and to enable discovery both locally and globally. Our partnership aims to create opportunities to efficiently solve problems at scale all the while accelerating the speed that subsequent problems can be addressed and solved.

OSP: Your announcement states that “Sharing data in this trusted and secure environment can lead to a ‘network effect’”—could you share a little more detail about that, and what kinds of benefits this will create for various stakeholders (ie, research teams, drug developers, patients, etc.)?

JK: Typically, organizations don’t recognize the incentives to share data with their partners in the ecosystem. By leveraging a platform that shares previous data curation and insight discoveries with the subsequent researchers, health systems will start to see this “network effect” that results in more insights being derived from data. As each team adds curation and context for their specific use case, while leveraging the work of teams before them, their time to a solution decreases. Expanding this phenomenon to other organizations will further scale this effect.

 With this platform, UCI will create previously unattainable collaborative consortia that will come together with a common interest around using all data to drive a deeper understanding of health, disease, and patient outcomes.

OSP: Please share what you can about any short- and long-term goals of the collaborators.

Tom Andriola, vice chancellor of IT and data/chief digital officer, University of California at Irvine

TA: The short-term goal for both Syntropy and UCI is to enable campus-wide initiatives with the health data analytics platform as a central resource to more efficiently arm researchers with access to the essential data they need to ultimately pave the way for better insight generation and more personalized patient care.

Syntropy’s long-term goal is to create a new precedent for how data is curated for scientific discovery – while it starts with better data integration, collaboration will augment insights tremendously for generations to come. UCI’s long-term vision is to unlock that data securely, curate it to be more accessible and usable, and really move the needle on health outcomes – for all populations.

OSP: Do you have anything to add?

JK: Through the partnership with Syntropy, UCI now has seamless and secure access to tremendous volumes of historic health data in real-time, which in turn provides an opportunity to evaluate treatment decisions objectively and quantitatively and better inform clinical guidelines.

An integrated health data analytics platform of this kind empowers physicians and healthcare providers with a more holistic view of an individual’s or community’s health needs to provide tailored patient care and enables scientists to conduct faster, more informed research. Patients can expect better care coordination and higher satisfaction with their overall care.

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