IBC, NYU seek to get ahead of diabetes

The Independence Blue Cross Building in the 1900 block of Market Street. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)
The Independence Blue Cross Building in the 1900 block of Market Street. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 01, 2013

Independence Blue Cross said Monday that it would spend close to $1 million over three years in a research collaboration with New York University to spot cases of undiagnosed diabetes and predict who is vulnerable for developing the disease.

IBC's contribution includes a $600,000 grant and other support. The researchers at NYU's Initiative in Data Science and Statistics will apply artificial-intelligence tools to IBC's medical and pharmacy claims data to predict the future rather than analyze the past.

"We feel that this can be a game-changer," Somesh Nigam, a senior vice president and chief informatics officer at IBC, said in an interview.

"Without a doubt, improved ways to accelerate the diagnosis of diabetes in affected people will improve health, reduce the complications of the disease, and reduce health-care costs," Ann Marie Schmidt, a professor of endocrinology and medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a participant in the research with IBC, said in a statement.

Leading the collaboration is NYU's David Sontag, an assistant professor of computer science. Sontag's research into methods of predicting diagnoses based on an analysis of keywords in patients' conversations with nurses caught IBC's attention, Nigam said.

IBC's hope is that the research will help improve care and trim spiraling health-care costs by making early intervention possible, Nigam said. As it is now, "people sometimes show up at their doctor's doorstep and the disease is far along."

The collaboration is just starting, with IBC preparing for the transfer of data. As part of the arrangement, NYU experts will train IBC analysts.


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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