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IBM, Mayo to diagnose medical data

Big Blue says it will develop a system for the prestigious health care organization designed to help archive medical data and augment the accuracy of diagnoses and treatments.

Technology from IBM will soon help guide doctors at the Mayo Clinic through patient diagnosis and demographic analysis as part of a jointly developed database.

Big Blue announced Monday that it will develop a system for the prestigious not-for-profit health care organization designed help archive medical information and make diagnoses and treatments more accurate. The system will be based on IBM's DB2 database software and include new technologies designed specifically for the Mayo Clinic.

"This will be one of the most comprehensive and complex information systems ever developed for clinical investigation, designed to help investigators understand illnesses on a molecular level and support improved treatment decisions," said Jeff Augen, director of strategy for IBM Life Sciences, in a press release.

The technology will give the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic faster access to information that can identify patients for clinical trials, analyze medical data to devise treatment plans and draw meaning from genomic data. The information accessed by the new system will come from public and private databases but will only be collected from consenting patients, according to IBM. The Mayo Clinic, which sees more than 500,000 patients a year, has a staff of some 2,400 doctors and scientists.

IBM's news is the latest development in one of the fastest-growing sectors for networking and IT. According to a recent study from research firm IDC, the market for "Bio-IT" is expected to grow at an annual rate of 24 percent and reach $38 billion by 2006.

"We see this market driving incremental revenue into IT, particularly high-performance computers and servers, storage and data and knowledge management, database technologies and tools, visualization, and application software," said Debra Goldfarb, IDC's vice president of Life Sciences research.

The first phase of the IBM/Mayo collaboration, which will put archival data into the database, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year. That could allow Mayo investigators to start correlating patient data and test results and begin diagnoses. Further development will aggregate genomic information, which will ultimately let doctors profile similar patients and decide on courses of treatment.