Managing disease through linking data


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The Challenge

If knowledge is power, information and the tools to understand disease could be the most powerful way to control, or even end, suffering from our most common diseases. Local and state medical service providers can supply information that can lead to better decisions about health care education and services.

The data are there — if we can assimilate information currently stored in scattered systems, then we may develop a better understanding of the distribution of diseases and their causes. Drawing upon records of thousands of actual cases, we have a better chance of understanding disease and reducing human suffering. Collecting and interpreting those data is crucial to understanding how diseases behave and how they are being treated.
More complete information will result in a better understanding of the causes of disease, and more effective efforts at prevention and treatment.

The Solution

This innovation lab will gain useful insight through collecting and interpreting data so that the spread of diseases is controlled or stopped.
Asthma will be used as the model for this innovation lab’s initial efforts. Who is most affected by the disease, possible environmental triggers and what kinds of treatment patients currently receive will be under investigation. Of particular statistical interest will be asthma attacks that result in hospital or emergency room visits.

Innovative computer systems that can link and analyze data collected by hospitals and ambulance services will be developed.


David Richardson, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, leads the team.

Partners include: UNC Department of Emergency Medicine, Orange County (NC) EMS, UNC Schools of Information and Library Science.