(May 2017) When Jean Kutner, MD, MSPH, provides care for patients, she wishes
she could spend more time talking with patients about their health and
the care they want to receive—and not spending her time on a computer,
trying to sort through volumes of health records.
not a good use of our valuable and limited time together,” said
Kutner, a general internist and palliative care specialist, chief
medical officer of University of Colorado Hospital and associate dean
for clinical affairs at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
her occasional frustration, Kutner is not against technology—far from
it. She wants to unlock its potential to create effective care
personalized for each patient.
Kutner co-leads the Data Science
to Patient Value (D2V) initiative, a new multidisciplinary program at
the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The initiative,
supported with a $20 million grant from the School of Medicine’s
Transformational Research Funding program, has big ambitions.
work could revolutionize how we think about how health care is
provided, the patient experience, and how we make decisions,” Kutner
said. “Our goal is to make CU Anschutz a leader in the intersection
between data and value and the application of cutting-edge data science
to the value equation.”
Personalizing big data
the volume of clinically relevant data in health records and from other
sources can be overwhelming. Initiatives like D2V could fix that
and develop technologies that create a new era in health care. Kutner
thinks in the future supercomputers will help diagnose and treat
patients, and that will lead to real improvements in their health and
maximize the doctor-patient relationship.
“This is personalized medicine focused on a patient’s goals and values, and not necessarily on their genome,” Kutner said.
gives the hypothetical example of a patient just discharged from the
hospital. In a few years, a doctor could use an activity tracker like a
Fitbit to see if the patient exercises and gets out of the house. The
doctor would look for signs the patient is not recovering or has
developed other health problems.
Kutner said the clinical team
could see the data and reach out to patients, checking on their status
and, if necessary, asking them to come in to be evaluated. Before the
visit, a supercomputer could analyze a patient’s data and compare it to
data collected from tens of millions of other people. The analysis could
create a personalized risk profile with suggestions for a custom
treatment plan based on proven therapies. At the start of the next
appointment, a doctor could see that information in single user-friendly
“With all that data already synthesized, I could get
the most value out of face-to-face time with a patient and help them
make decisions about their treatment,” Kutner said. “That would be my
Physicians would still have important roles, Kutner
said. The doctor and patient would use their time together to talk about
what problems are arising and focus on their patient’s priorities. They
would work together to get back on track.
Value from the patient’s perspective
D2V is working on technological innovation in fields such as medical
informatics, biostatistics and data visualization, Kutner said it also
will address the more philosophical question of how to define value. It
is not a simple question.
“If I’m a patient, I might define value
differently than an insurer or a health care provider,” Kutner said.
Patients can have unsatisfactory experiences despite being what doctors
might consider success stories.
D2V will address that disconnect
by including stakeholders such as patient advocates and experts in
public health and the insurance industry. Kutner believes that will keep
the project focused on the ultimate goal, which is improving care.
Building technology and a team
started work in 2016 by recruiting experts from across CU Anschutz.
Kutner wants to take advantage of CU Anschutz’s collaborative environment and current faculty members, researchers and staff.
have unique expertise here. We have outstanding data scientists. We
have people who do world-leading work in care decision making and
understanding stakeholder perspectives,” Kutner said. “We need to
connect them behind a common goal.”
D2V also recruits
researchers from around the world, with more people hired each month.
Guest speakers from other leading institutions have given seminars to
Eight pilot projects are underway. They include a
team trying to improve the databases that track children who have severe
asthma attacks. That project’s goal is to test whether risk profiles
can help create personalized predictions of when children might suffer
D2V will fund an additional six pilot projects in 2017.