By Steve Bailey, Globe Columnist
Partners Healthcare, the giant of the Boston medical world, is
studying a plan with other big academic hospitals elsewhere to sell
aggregated patient data to the government, pharmaceutical and biotech
companies, insurers, and publishers. "As the adage goes, 'Information
is power, and power is money,' " notes a confidential Partners'
document outlining the 'data commercialization project."
Partners executives say no decision has been made to go ahead with the
project. "It is still in the brainstorming stages," says Partners
chief operating officer, Tom Glynn. They are sensitive to concerns
about patient confidentiality, and say the most likely first customer
would be government agencies such as the Food and Drug
Administration. As an example, they say data collected by the
hospitals could have been used by the FDA to correlate the use of
Vioxx and the incidence of heart attacks.
But the confidential outline makes clear Partners sees the market as
much broader. "This project offers the opportunity to understand how
various enterprises (government, pharma/biotech, consulting/analysis
firms, investment analysts, publishers, etc.) utilize healthcare data
to achieve their goals," the memo states.
Among the information available in Partners' 'data warehouse':
patient demographic data; diagnoses and procedure data; inpatient
pharmacy data; and ''assorted data" on inpatient hospitalization and
clinical encounters, including provider information.