IBM Developer Blog

Follow the latest happenings with IBM Developer and stay in the know.

Make healthcare data more accessible to spur better results

Healthcare data is often trapped in a maze of digital applications or records systems that don’t interoperate. As a result, healthcare technology professionals are limited in their ability to bring data, technology, and clinical expertise together to transform healthcare for providers, payers, governments, pharmaceutical companies, and other healthcare organizations.

A new open source project from IBM Watson Health — Project Alvearie — seeks to help healthcare technology professionals unlock and effectively use healthcare data to solve some of the biggest challenges in healthcare.

An open source project designed to make healthcare innovation possible

One of the most persistent obstacles for data exchange in healthcare is the lack of standards to easily support longitudinal patient records (LPRs) and ensuing analysis and insights based on an LPR. LPRs are the records healthcare professionals look at when they’re researching a patient’s history. They contain a variety of data types, including images, vital sign measurements, notes from other doctors, lab results, claims, and more. Since different organizations use different formats for records, it can be hard to share information between organizations. So, there are often gaps in a patient’s data, which can make it harder for organizations to make good, informed decisions.

Project Alvearie can help you overcome that obstacle and more as it is designed to provide various technology components for developers to ingest, process, store, and provide insights across a diverse set of health data. The project aims to include not just clinical patient data, like x-ray images or blood pressure readings, but also billing records and claims data from payers like health insurance companies, and other diverse data types like unstructured provider notes. By providing an open source option for bringing different data together, Alvearie aims to be one of the leading reference implementation for developers to make healthcare data and records interoperable and usable.

To do that, we need collaborators from across the spectrum of healthcare, including developers, data scientists, payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, universities, governments, and service providers, who can provide their unique perspectives.

Collaborators will have an opportunity to contribute to the different components and services that make up Alvearie, including:

  • Linux for Health: A distributed processing network operating system that allows edge devices (IoT, workstations, app servers) to connect directly to healthcare transaction systems.
  • The Quality Measure and Cohort Service: A service using clinical quality language (CQL) to develop and uncover patient cohorts and measures for research.
  • The IBM FHIR Server: A scalable R4 multi-cloud FHIR Server.

Here are four reasons why I think you should consider joining our effort:

1. Making healthcare data more adaptable can help support smarter healthcare

Alvearie is designed to provide the technology services and components healthcare technology professionals need to make their data more adaptable and interoperable without sacrificing privacy or security requirements.

We are seeking developers and data scientists who can contribute to or use Alvearie and help solve interoperability challenges so that everyone, from patients to providers to researchers to business leaders, can access the information they need when they need it.

2. Leverage the open source ecosystem in an effort to improve healthcare technology

The open technology components, such as Kafka, NiFi, and Red Hat OpenShift, in Alvearie support healthcare standards, such as HL7, FHIR, and DICOM. These components can give healthcare organizations the flexibility they need to help build data pipelines and applications tailored to their goals and regulatory requirements without being locked into a specific infrastructure or vendor.

As a result, tools for common healthcare data transformation needs, like de-identification, can be incorporated into the data pipeline rather than individual software applications. Rather than struggling with data challenges, developers and other IT professionals can focus on providing user experiences and features that help analysts, researchers and doctors use health data more effectively.

3. Advocate for your organization’s unique perspective and needs

Managing data for a large hospital or health system is fundamentally different from managing data for a pharma company, and that’s different from managing data for an imaging center. Yet these organizations could all benefit from working with open-source technology they can adapt to meet their requirements and goals.

We’ve made a good head start on building many of the core services and components within Alvearie. If you have expertise in the data nuances for a specific discipline or organization, we would love to work with contributors who can build meaningful patterns or reference implementations that can be adapted for specific needs.

4. Learn and scale open source data technologies

Some key technologies we’re incorporating into Alvearie include OpenShift, Kubernetes, Python, and several Apache projects, such as Spark, Kafka and NiFi. Other industries like finance, manufacturing, and telecom have used these technologies to solve complex data challenges. Contributing to Alvearie gives you the opportunity to learn those technologies, and learn new approaches to solving data issues at an enterprise scale.

Get involved

You can learn more details about the project and the details of our technology stack by visiting the Alvearie GitHub repo.

To become a contributor or meet the current team, join our Slack group.