University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston deploys public health preparedness framework with Oracle and TopQuadrant

Redwood Shores 19 February 2007The University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at Houston uses Semantic Web technology from Oracle and TopQuadrant, a Certified Partner in the Oracle PartnerNetwork, to enable public health preparedness and allow for improved decision making. UT-Houston's Situational Awareness and Preparedness for Public Health Incidences Using Reasoning Engines - or SAPPHIRE - system integrates a wide range of health and epidemiological data from local health care providers, hospitals and pharmacies. By applying social network analysis to the disparate data from multiple sources, health care providers can create a single, integrated metadata model to analyse, detect, and respond to public health matters.


UT-Houston's SAPPHIRE system facilitates bio-surveillance and symptom trending by enabling SAPPHIRE team members to take advantage of Semantic Web capabilities to integrate and manage myriad data from a variety of sources. UT-Houston built its SAPPHIRE architecture using Oracle's Resource Description Framework (RDF) Data Model, a feature of Oracle Spatial 10g, an option to Oracle Database 10g, integrated with TopQuadrant's TopBraid Composer.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, such as RDF and Web Ontology Language (OWL), serve as the foundation for semantic technologies, which are designed to extend the capabilities of information on the Web and enable data to be integrated in a meaningful way. Oracle's RDF Data Model offers the industry's first open, scalable, secure and reliable RDF management platform.

"Oracle and TopQuadrant allow UT-Houston to shift the centre of gravity for public health care delivery by moving beyond symptom detection to large-scale public health surveillance, via trend monitoring, detection and response", stated Parsa Mirhaji, M.D., director of the Center for Biosecurity and Public Health Informatics Research at the University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston. "As a result, the public health preparedness framework enables a semantic transformation from disparate data to actionable information that decision makers can easily access and compute."

"In a pilot project, UT-Houston used the Oracle and TopQuadrant-based approach as the basis of its SAPPHIRE system, which successfully monitored and analysed public health information during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005 to allow public health officials to make improved decisions. Tested during the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005, SAPPHIRE's surveillance techniques analysed the health of evacuees at the Astrodome, Reliant Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center. A PDA extension of SAPPHIRE enabled more than 300 volunteers, led by the UT School of Public Health, to collect and analyse critical health data.

The information gleaned from the nearly 9000 confidential patient encounters helped caregivers respond to the specific needs of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees. "The principles that UT employed during the Katrina disaster could serve as a model for the nationwide efforts involving public health information", stated Oracle Vice President of Health Industries Mychelle Mowry. "The integration between Oracle and TopBraid enables simpler navigation of disparate health data, better public health information exchange and improved bio-surveillance efforts - ultimately helping to deliver better public health care."

"Professional grade tools like TopBraid Composer and Oracle Spatial 10g represent a significant milestone marking the emergence of Semantic Web standards from the research lab to meeting the demands of enterprise system development", stated TopQuadrant Executive Partner Irene Polikoff. "The SAPPHIRE system is an important example of the many large scale systems we are beginning to see that are applying Semantic Web technology to complex, real-world problems."

The most comprehensive academic health centre in the Southwest, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is home to six schools devoted to medicine, nursing, public health, dentistry, health informatics and graduate studies in biomedical science. In addition to the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM), other components are the UT Harris County Psychiatric Center and the Mental Sciences Institute. The UT Health Science Center at Houston, founded in 1972, is part of the University of Texas System. It is a state-supported health institution whose state funding is supplemented by competitive research grants, patient fees and private philanthropy.

Oracle PartnerNetwork is a global business network of 17.700 companies who deliver innovative software solutions based on Oracle software. Through access to Oracle's premier products, education, technical services, marketing and sales support, the Oracle PartnerNetwork programme provides partners with the resources they need to be successful in today's global economy. Oracle partners are able to offer to their customers, leading-edge solutions backed by Oracle's position as the world's largest enterprise software company. Partners who are able to demonstrate superior product knowledge, technical expertise and a commitment to doing business with Oracle can qualify for the Oracle Certified Partner levels.

More news on Oracle is available in the VMW January 2007 article Children's Hospital and Health System automates processes and improves operational efficiency with Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise Applications.

Leslie Versweyveld

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