UPMC files federal trademark registration for cloud solution

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s commercialization arm is developing a downloadable cloud-based software designed to serve as a health IT infrastructure for the sharing of healthcare data.

Called the healthcare operating system (hcOS), UPMC Enterprises recently filed a federal trademark registration for the solution with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“Essentially, you can think of hcOS as solving all the data silos,” says Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises. “It’s a technology strategy. What we’re trying to do is get the data out of all the source systems and get it into a place where we can actually use it.”

In addition to facilitating the availability of data for providers, payers and consumers, hcOS is envisioned as a platform as a service that provides tools for developers to create healthcare apps.

“We’re building a three-layer data cake and wrapping the whole thing in application programming interfaces—APIs are critical,” says Rob Hartman, senior manager of business development at UPMC Enterprises.

“We ingest the data out of clinical systems as the base layer and get it into the cloud,” adds Hartman. “The middle layer is a set of tools or processing that can handle things like governance, security, identity management, privacy, harmonization and indexing on top of the data. And, the third layer is natural language processing and artificial intelligence.”

Rebecca Jacobson, vice president of analytics at UPMC Enterprises, heads a team working on machine learning and natural language processing solutions.

“The goal is to develop new, innovative methods with ML and NLP and to turn those into products that impact healthcare and patients,” says Jacobson. “I think we’ve done something extremely innovative in creating this (hcOS) platform.”

“We’ve made our biggest bet on NLP with Rebecca’s team and some of the hires that she’s done,” notes Heppenstall. “When it comes to VC funding, there’s a lot of money going after a lot of different solutions to a lot of different problems. Our differentiating factor is that we actually have to live the problems in healthcare every day. The thing that attracts the most about us is that we are a provider and a payer. That’s what makes us into a, hopefully, better investor than the other VCs.”

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UPMC Enterprises, the venture arm of the Pittsburgh-based health system, is focused on solving problems in healthcare and driving innovation by harnessing data to prevent and treat diseases and to radically improve care.

Hartman contends that APIs figure prominently in the hcOS strategy at UPMC Enterprises “so that innovators—whether they’re internal or external—don’t have to struggle with data challenges and can innovate more quickly.”

Also See: Why ‘the year of the API’ will pose big challenges for providers

“The idea is that the more health systems that buy into this have similar APIs and processing it will allow innovation to scale much more rapidly,” according to Hartman, who adds that UPMC Enterprises’ hcOS solution is built on the Health Level 7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard.

Healthcare organizations, including app developers and electronic health record vendors, have widely embraced the FHIR API to help solve the complex interoperability challenges that are confronting the industry, as they seek to increase access to EHRs and data sharing.

With hcOS “we’re willing to partner,” concludes Hartman. “With some parts of the (three-layer data) cake, we’re using external companies and entities to help build it. The idea is that it’s modular. There’s a common language, vision and strategy. But how the framework ultimately gets embodied into different healthcare systems and payer organizations remains to be worked out.”

At the same time, while some components of hcOS are “fully baked” according to Hartman, he acknowledges that other parts of the solution are “still pretty soupy.”

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