‘Sherlock’ Applies Problem Solving to Complex Challenges

By Tiffany Trader

August 21, 2013

San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is announcing a bold new cloud and analytics-based initiative, called Sherlock. Established by SDSC with the assistance of SD Technology and Chickasaw Nation Industries, the Sherlock-branded project represents an “extensive portfolio of information technology services for healthcare and government.” The public partnership brings academic, industry and government stakeholders together with the latest computing technologies in order to solve the complex challenges of the 21st century.

Sherlock’s Chief Detective and Director Dallas Thornton revealed the new initiative at the 29th Annual Conference of the National Association for Medicaid Program Integrity (NAMPI), held this week in Baltimore, MD.

“We wanted to find a way to more clearly communicate our capabilities to potential partners, because we realize that the data management, technology, and policy challenges, especially in the health sector, can be overwhelmingly complex and confusing,” observed Thornton, whose formal title is SDSC’s Division Director for Health IT.

As a broadly-recognized symbol of problem-solving, the Sherlock character drives home the significance of data in meeting today’s challenges. The ‘Sherlock’ brand will be paired with the tagline ‘Solved.’

“Although he’s a fictional character created by Scottish author/physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle more than 100 years ago, Sherlock Holmes is still well-known worldwide, and among multiple generations, for his unerring ability to solve the most complex cases,” stated Thornton. “That’s why we think this name is so appropriate for our initiative. In fact, one quote attributed to Sherlock Holmes could not be more applicable to today’s research-intensive world: ‘Data! Data! Data! I cannot make bricks without clay!'”

The computational brains of Sherlock reside at the San Diego Supercomputer Center’s (SDSC) Data Center with redundancy provided at a secure location in Northern California. The 19,000-square foot climate-controlled SDSC datacenter is equipped with 13 megawatts of power, multi- 10-gigabit network connectivity as well as backup power, advanced fire suppression systems, and other safety measures. Sherlock Cloud systems maintain high-bandwidth connections to the Internet and research networks such as Internet2, National Lambda Rail (NLR), and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC).

At present, “Sherlock” consists of four main products and services: Sherlock Analytics, Sherlock Case Management, Sherlock Cloud, and Sherlock Data Lab. Since they will be dealing with sensitive data, all offerings comply with HIPAA and FISMA regulations. Sherlock Cloud (formerly called SDSC GovCloud) also meets federal Cloud First requirements and is preparing for FedRAMP certification.

The Sherlock team designed this portfolio of targeted services to tackle a wide-range of government and healthcare needs, for example, the costly problem of insurance fraud. Accordingly, this comprehensive product set would not be possible without the expertise of numerous IT disciplines, including cloud computing, cyber security, data management and mining, application development, high-performance computing (HPC), big data, and visualization.

Sherlock staff will be working directly with federal and state agencies, the University of California system, as well as other universities. Launch partners Chickasaw Nation Industries (CNI) and SD Technology bring years of government contracting experience and small business acumen to the effort.

Fighting Medical Fraud

Sherlock just launched under a new brand, but it is already hard at work uncovering healthcare fraud. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fraud accounts for up to 10 percent of all US healthcare spending each year, adding up to hundreds of billions in lost dollars annually. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are working with the Sherlock team and employing all four Sherlock services to identify the fraudulent activity.

One of the initiative’s main tools is a 100TB+ data warehouse, hosted in the Sherlock Cloud. The warehouse holds provider, claims, and referential data from all state and territorial Medicaid agencies. Once the data is collected, partners – including CMS staff, Medicaid Integrity Contractors, the Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Justice, and other users – can begin the data mining and analysis work.

The video below describes how the suite of Sherlock services align to create a comprehensive, integrated fraud-fighting solution. Sherlock Cloud provides a secure, scalable and compliant means of storing claim data, and Sherlock Data Lab brings together data from disparate systems enabling cross-border analysis. With a suite of tools, Sherlock Analytics help users query the data, and Sherlock Case Management tracks each case through the recovery process, and provides a single graphical user interface to identify, vet, and audit suspect claims.

Solving the problem of Medical Fraud, Waste and Abuse exemplifies the comprehensiveness of the Sherlock solution, but that is not its only role. UC San Diego is using Sherlock Cloud in partnership with the National Institute of Health NIH to develop new technologies in the emerging field of biomedical research known as metabolomics. Advances in this domain have important implications for personalized medicine.

In other capacities, Sherlock will be assisting the federal government with Cloud First requirements and will be collaborating with a number of university-based projects for the public and private sector.

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