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Improved use of databases could save billions of euro in health care costs

Years of suffering and billions of euro in global health care costs, arising from osteoporosisrelated bone fractures, could be eliminated using big data to target vulnerable patients, according to researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software.

A study of 36,590 patients who underwent bone mineral density scans in the West of Ireland between January 2000 and November 2018, found that many fractures are potentially preventable by identifying those at greatest risk before they fracture, and initiating proven, safe, low-cost effective interventions.

The multi-disciplinary study, led by Lero’s Prof. John J. Carey, Consultant Physician in Medicine and Rheumatology, Galway University Hospital, Mary Dempsey, Mechanical Engineering and Dr Attracta Brennan, Computer Science, NUI Galway has been published in the British Medical Journal.

The Irish dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) Health Informatics Prediction (HIP) project on bone mineral density now plans to assess current diagnostic classification and risk prediction algorithms for osteoporosis and fractures, according to Prof. Carey.

“This will identify which predictors are most important for Irish people at risk for osteoporosis, and develop new, accurate and personalised risk prediction tools using the large, multicentre, longitudinal follow-up cohort.

“Furthermore, the dataset may be used to assess, and possibly support, the assessment and management of other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and other illnesses due to the large number of variables collected in this project,” he added.

Prof. Carey points out that while Ireland has one of the highest osteoporosis rates globally, currently there is no national public or government policy to address the healthcare requirements of osteoporotic fractures, with costs rising rapidly.

“In Ireland, public hospital bed days have increased by almost 50% in the past decade for osteoporotic fractures and outnumber heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses that receive much greater attention,” he added.