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U of M’s health care “big data” push to produce better patient care, research

If you’ve followed health reform efforts, you know that every policy debate and system change center around one set of objectives: better outcomes at lower costs with improved patient experiences. The “triple aim” of health care.

But often overlooked in the reform discussion is the question of just how we’ll assess the impact of system changes. How will we know what we’re doing is working? The answer, quite simply, lies in unprecedented access to data.

Through an intensive focus on data and health informatics, the University of Minnesota is front and center in shaping how data is leveraged within research and clinical care. The University has long maintained a robust health informatics program and has also made substantial investments in technology to position itself as a leader in both data collection and analysis.

Our friend and colleague Kevin Coss, from the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), recently highlighted a variety of University informatics efforts in a piece for the OVPR blog Research @ the U of M. Within, Kevin quotes Dr. Genevieve Melton-Meaux of the U’s Institute for Health Informatics and the chief medical information officer for University of Minnesota Physicians, who said that the “repository and analysis of the large amounts of clinical data will help with clinical research discovery and help forecast what kind of care patients will need, which in turn improves the patient’s treatment.”

We encourage Health Talk readers to visit Kevin’s profile of University efforts within the field of health informatics. His piece can be viewed in its entirety here.

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education

VIDEO: Teaching kids about telemedicine

Wednesday, kids in SCRUBS Academy at the University of North Dakota practiced telemedicine with graduate students in the University of Minnesota Health Informatics department. The students learned about how new technology can help patients and doctors cross boundaries, save money and save time.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Sleepwalking: more common than you may have thought.

You may not know it, but you may be one of every three Americans who will sleepwalk during their life.

University of Minnesota Medical School Professor of Neurology Mark Mahowald, M.D. and fellow researchers from across the nation found that 29% of adults will sleepwalk during their lifetime and 3 to 4% of us–or 8.4 million Americans–have sleepwalked in the past year. Mahowald and his colleagues’ findings were published this week in the journal Neurology.

“It was formerly thought that sleepwalking was seen commonly in children but not in adults,” says Mahowald. In reality however, sleepwalking is “very, very prevalent”.

Sleepwalking’s prevalence among the general population is much higher than many medical professionals and members of the community think.

Because parts of the brain can be awake while other parts are still asleep, the brain is capable of carrying out complicated behaviors (such as sleepwalking) while the conscious mind is still asleep.

While Mahowald and colleagues’ study found that Americans already suffering from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia, those taking sleeping pills and those suffering from depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) were more likely to sleepwalk than other groups, Mahowald emphasizes that anyone can sleepwalk.

“Initially, it was thought that it was related to psychiatric and psychological problems,” he says. “People don’t want to bring it up because they are afraid they will be told it’s psychiatric. But, clearly, it’s not related to psychiatric problems.”

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