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David Geffen School of Medicine

The Invisible Backbone

Information technology is the unseen scaffold supporting the delivery of healthcare, scientific discovery and medical education.

Med Mag-WinterSpring12-Dr. WashingtonLIKE THE STETHOSCOPE, information technology (IT) is now an indispensable instrument in clinical care. Though less venerable, and often less visible, IT has become a potent force in the art and science of medicine. This year, three crucial information-technology programs will reach major milestones in UCLA Health System and the David Geffen School of  Medicine at UCLA, and they will ultimately create the knowledge backbone needed to propel us into the next decade of patient care, scientific discovery and medical education.

CareConnect, the first of these programs, is creating a comprehensive electronic-health-records system. The CareConnect program transforms the way care is delivered by aggregating information about patients and making it available not only to caregivers, but also to the patients themselves. The elements of this momentous program include the concepts of: 

  • One person, one chart
  • One scheduling system
  • Immediate access to patient status for all UCLA doctors and referring physicians

By the end of 2012, our health providers will no longer have to sort through multiple applications and paper records to get a complete picture of a patient's health status. A single application will provide access to the full record. More than 15 CareConnect workgroups, representing physicians, nurses and operations personnel, will implement this patient-centric construct, which links dynamic healthcare practices to powerful data technology, transforming the way UCLA delivers healthcare.

Another program, the UCLA Data Repository, or xDR, is establishing a new data and analytics program to support research and care transformation. The "x" in "xDR" stands for a variable of the unknown — emphasize the inscrutability of future needs. The xDR will house CareConnect data and augment them with information from other databases, internal and external to UCLA. Research repositories from our Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and exploratory platforms in the Institute for Innovation in Health, will rely on the xDR, which will enable analytics and data mining on a heretofore unobtainable scale.

Querying large quantities of health data can vastly improve the precision of answers obtained, and the ability to relate one silo of data to another speeds up the process of analysis, and thereby of decision-making. The UCLA xDR program thus will deliver both the velocity and the data-management capacity needed to power real-time analyses that promote more evidence-based medicine.

The third effort, IT Operations Upgrade 2012 program, will increase the capacity and efficiency of UCLA Health Sciences' information-moving backbone. This program aims to reduce the unit cost of IT services, such as storage, e-mail management, data centers and application maintenance, while increasing valuable services, such as support for mobile computing and video. The Operations 2012 program is taking aggressive steps to reduce unit costs, while concurrently upgrading capacity to support CareConnect and the xDR programs.

Importantly, these three cutting-edge IT programs are also facilitating innovative teaching methods and new educational models. And independently and in concert, they will ensure that the next decade yields strategic assets in the form of more useful data, efficient analysis and new knowledge - knowledge that promotes health, prevents disease and improves the lives of people worldwide.

A. Eugene Washington, M.D., M.Sc.
Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences
Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Gerald S. Levey, M.D., Endowed Chair


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