Big Data • Big Analytics • Big Insight

November 6, 2013

UNC and SAS Join Forces

CARY, N.C., Nov. 6 — The UNC School of Medicine and business software leader SAS have joined forces on a multi-year collaboration to develop analytics-driven population health management capabilities to help providers personalize care delivery approaches for patients with type 2 diabetes. The new solution from SAS will leverage big data and help providers identify the best ways to engage individual patients in managing their diabetes and overall health.

“With this new solution, physicians will know how to communicate with and engage patients in a personalized manner based on what is likely to work best for each individual patient,” said David Rubinow, MD, director, UNC Innovation and Health Care System Transformation. “By understanding the preferences and needs of the individual patient – not just his or her health history – the physician can select and provide resources that are best matched for that individual and consequently most likely to be successfully incorporated into patients’ efforts to manage their diabetes and their health.”

With the patient’s permission, UNC and SAS will leverage UNC’s patient data with third-party data commonly used in other industries to better understand customer needs and behaviors. Many industries now successfully mine such data to tailor internet content delivery and determine which products customers want. A similar technique will be used for diabetes patients, but the software will be used to stratify patients according to risk and customize interventions based on patient preferences, interests, motivations, and lifestyle.

“For diabetes patients, taking prescribed medication is important to achieving and maintaining good health,” said Laura Young, MD, PhD, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism in the UNC School of Medicine. “If a physician knows that a patient is more likely to take medication if he receives regular text message reminders, for example, this will be extremely helpful. Finding new tools to help physicians help patients improve their health is more important than ever.”

UNC plans to test the effectiveness of such analytic insights in physicians’ offices in a clinical trial led by Young and John Buse, MD, PhD, division chief of endocrinology and metabolism and director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center. While the initial solution is being deployed for patients with diabetes, UNC and SAS expect many other populations to benefit from providers using the software to deliver personalized care and plan to work on additional applications in the future.

“As population health moves to the forefront in health care, SAS and UNC are implementing and validating new capabilities in creating patient engagement that meet the needs of the individual patient in the day-to-day management of their health and treatment plan,” said Graham Hughes, MD, SAS chief medical officer. “Leveraging all available consumer data to drive a particular behavior is common in other industries, and it will be key in supporting patients’ sustained behavior change for improved health and outcomes. Engaging patients as unique individuals will encourage them to embrace and manage their treatment plans and overall health.”

The collaboration grew from discussions between the SAS Center for Health Analytics and Insights (CHAI) and UNC Health Care and School of Medicine’s Center for Innovation. SAS and UNC have teamed up before and are working on another product to improve patient care for cancer patients.