$7 Million Grant to UBMD Will Develop Health Care Informatics System Targeting Kidney Disease in WNY

115 jobs will be created; project will be supported by additional $21.9 million in investments

Release Date: October 7, 2009 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- UBMD, the University at Buffalo's 450-member physician practice plan, has received a $7 million grant from the New York State Department of Health HEAL NY initiative to implement a novel electronic records system to track and manage treatment of chronic kidney disease in real time, with the goal of reducing the number of patients in Western New York who develop end stage kidney disease (ESRD).

The project will be supported by additional major investments from CTG, the Buffalo-based global information-technology company, and UBMD. The total $28.9 million investment will create a software system that enables uniform sharing of electronic patient records across the UBMD practice, and which will identify in patients the health markers symptomatic of kidney disease and diabetes.

The project is expected to create approximately 115 new high-paying jobs in computer programming and data analysis in Buffalo at CTG and UBMD.

The principal investigator on the project is David L. Dunn, MD, PhD, UB's vice president for health sciences. Russell W. Bessette, MD, associate vice president for health sciences and director of health information technology in the UB Academic Health Center, serves as co-investigator. Both are working in close collaboration with Bruce A. Holm, PhD, UB senior vice provost and executive director of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

Dunn noted that support for the project was provided by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Assembly Member Crystal Peoples, Senator William Stachowski, Senator Antoine Thompson and Congressman Brian Higgins, and referenced the foresight of New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD, and Deputy Commissioner for Health IT Rachel Block in initiating this important statewide program.

"We expect these software tools will improve the health status of Western New Yorkers and yield significant savings in health care," Dunn said. "With the shape of health care reform being hotly debated at the national level, Western New York continues to be on the forefront of innovative transformation, representing an ideal test bed for novel ideas and new systems for preventing and monitoring disease that effectively engage patients and providers in 21st century 'eHealth.'"

The project, Holm noted, is an example of the type of successful collaboration envisioned between UB researchers, industry partners and government leaders when UB's Center of Excellence opened in 2006.

"This collaboration between UB, CTG and our elected officials will help transform health care in our region and generate the type of jobs and spin-off projects that will fuel continued growth of our region's life sciences industry and attract additional investments to our community," Holm said.

Mayor Brown described today's announcement as another important development in the continuing evolution of Buffalo's medical campus and "the promise it holds for employment opportunities and health care advances for current and future generations of residents in our city and region.

"In my 2009 State of the City address, I said that I planned on making Buffalo a national center for electronic medical records and health informatics; today's exciting announcement is fulfillment of that pledge," Brown said. "I thank the University at Buffalo, the New York State Department of Health, UB's Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, CTG and the members of our state legislative delegation who have worked so diligently and collaboratively to bring this important health care development to the city's Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus."

CTG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James R. Boldt said CTG's involvement in the project is advancing the company's expansion into the health care market and the health care informatics industry. A team of CTG software engineers is based in UB's Center of Excellence and has been working on the project with UB researchers and computer scientists.

"CTG could have headquartered its health care informatics practice anywhere, but we chose to base it in Buffalo because only here in Western New York have we seen the kind of collaboration between universities, government officials and public companies that is required to make a project like this one work," Boldt said.

In three years, development of this new system for early management of kidney disease is estimated to generate $154 million a year in savings in Medicare costs in New York State. More than 1,400 people in Western New York suffer from end-stage kidney disease requiring expensive and time-consuming dialysis treatment, as well as kidney transplantation. Kidney disease and diabetes disproportionately affect minority populations.

The prototype of the novel kidney-disease-tracking software, developed by Bessette in collaboration with UB researchers and computer scientists and CTG software engineers, has been pretested for feasibility by following 1,300 patient records for 13 months.

Studies have shown that 40 percent of patients with type 1 diabetes will develop ESRD within 25 years, but when these patients have good glycemic control, only nine percent will develop the disease.

"Because of the important role preventive medicine can play in minimizing the effects of chronic kidney disease, and due to the significant cost of renal disease and its impact on minority populations, we expect these software tools will improve the health status of Western New Yorkers and yield significant savings in health care," said Bessette.

The software allows physicians to record blood values for all elements that relate to kidney function, which will be displayed in a sunburst-like display, with 16 "rays" denoting each element of the blood sample analysis important to kidney health extending from a green center circle.

The program analyzes each element and consolidates them into one score. If all the elements are normal, the green center remains intact. If elements of the blood analysis are abnormal, those elements display in a contrasting red color extending from the center.

"This is an important tool for the physician to treat and track outcomes of the treatment," said Bessette. "But we also see this ultimately as a patient tool. Putting the health information in a color-coded system lets the patients see if they are OK or not in each area.

"ESRD was chosen for this study because it is a chronic disease with major budgetary impact, and because much data involving care of these patients already is available and is transmitted electronically," he continued.

"In addition, the information has broad application across many other medical conditions. By correlating blood chemistry values to illness complexity, our system recognizes that ESRD patients routinely face other complicating conditions, such hypertension, anemia, osteomalacia and heart failure."

ESRD patients have medical costs on average of $65,000 per year to New York State or commercial medical insurers before they become eligible for Medicare. "Using our system offers an opportunity to reduce this expenditure dramatically," Bessette noted.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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