A Personal Tale

Combining text analytics and business intelligence made a huge difference in the life of one IT professional who used the concepts behind pairing the two technologies to save her husbands leg from amputation.

For Patricia Cerrito, professor of mathematics at the University of Louisville, the gulf between BI and text presented potentially devastating repercussions. Inflicted with diabetes and osteomyelitis, an inflammation of the bone caused by infection, Cerritos husband faced the possibility of an amputation right below the knee.

An alternative treatment involved a particular antibiotic. But the doctors were reluctant to OK it unless Cerrito personally provided information on dosage and side effects. The physician was aware that we had expertise in this area, but ultimately the leg belonged to my husband, she says, adding that most physicians are amenable to postponing amputation as long as there is a degree of safety in doing so. To gather the information requested, she ultimately gleaned structured BI prescription data and combined that with anecdotal information prepared by individual physicians.

Trouble was, patient information prepared by physicians tends to be scattered in disparate document management applications and other systems. In medicine, physicians are independent entrepreneurs. For this reason, change is slow, especially when it involves changing the perspective of disease management, says Cerrito.

Now, Cerrito says she is determined to help make available more information on alternative treatments for particular diseases by creating interfaces between structured BI databases and unstructured text.

Through the use of SAS Text Miner, it is now possible to examine sequences of decisions by creating text strings from multiple columns of information, she says. Text Miner plows through these text strings, formatting and classifying documents after detecting relationships between pieces of text-based information. In this way, Cerrito, her husband and her students are able to delve into data housed in hospital billing systems and physician chart notes.

Cerrito brings her efforts full circle to help others. This experience has led me to question whether patients in similar circumstances would have had their leg amputated, because they were unaware of alternatives, she says. From my research and work, this appears to be the case.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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