Mayo Clinic

How IBM's analytics software saves lives

March 15, 2010: 7:47 AM ET

To help Mayo Clinic improve detection of potentially deadly aneurysms, IBM prescribed technology used to treat ailing business operations.

Here's the thing about brain aneurysms: They aren't necessarily deadly, unless they pop. If that happens, there's roughly a 50% chance that the patient will die—so it's best to spot and treat them early.

To help in their aneurysm hunt, radiologists at Mayo Clinic use special software developed with IBM (IBM) that analyzes a three-dimensional brain scan. Computer algorithms process information in the images, pick out abnormal areas where fragile blood vessels might be hiding, and flag the potential trouble spots for Mayo doctors. So far the results are promising. In trials the software found 95% of aneurysms; a typical radiologist would have found 70%.

The technology used by Mayo Clinic is fairly new (the facility started using it last year), but the underlying science—advanced analytics—has been around for decades. Analytics, also known as "business intelligence," sizes up and organizes vast streams of data to help institutions spot kinks in their supply chain, forecast where inventories should be next quarter—or detect serious health problems. The rocky economy has helped make business analytics, and the efficiencies it can produce, suddenly sexy. "Often these days companies can't compete by just having a better product," says Forrester analyst Boris Evelson. "They need to do things faster, at lower cost. Analytics software helps them do that."

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