Health Informatics News

A research group based at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust – Kenya and Oxford University has developed a free smartphone app for training health workers called “LIFE” which was launched during the Kenya Paediatric Association 2019 annual conference in Mombasa, Kenya.

The Life-saving Instruction for Emergencies (LIFE) smartphone app uses interactive 3D simulations of life-threatening emergencies to train healthcare workers to save lives. The simulations take place in a virtual 3D hospital where users have to find the correct pieces of medical equipment to manage an emergency and then use this equipment to carry out a sequence of life-saving steps. At the end of the simulated emergency, if they have carried out the steps correctly, the LIFE system awards a digital Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit that is registered with the Kenya Paediatric Association (KPA).

There is a desperate need for new methods to train the growing numbers of healthcare workers around the world, particularly for managing emergencies in children. In Africa, approximately 1 million children die in their first month of life and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two-thirds of these children could be saved if the healthcare workers who look after them had adequate training and resources.

Currently available face-to-face training programmes for healthcare workers are expensive and are associated with knowledge decay over time requiring frequent refresher training which only adds to the cost and inconvenience. To overcome these challenges, LIFE has been designed as a freely available app that all healthcare workers can download onto their own smartphones. The LIFE app reminds users on their phones when they need to refresh their training so that they can quickly test their knowledge to ensure they are always ready to act in an emergency. The LIFE app issues CPD credits each time they refresh their knowledge so that healthcare workers are rewarded with professional recognition for keeping up-to-date.

The development of the LIFE app was initially funded by contributors to a crowdfunding campaign, including the Skoll Foundation, HTC, and Medicins Sans Frontieres, with matched funding from the Wellcome Trust. The LIFE team went on to win funding from the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge for Development (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, DFID, KOICA and Grand Challenges Canada). In 2018, LIFE won the “VR for Impact” award from HTC at the World Economic Forum in Davos to develop a Virtual Reality version of the app.

Healthcare workers around the world can now download the LIFE app for free from www.oxlifeproject.org or the Google Play Store https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.ac.ox.NDM.LIFE

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The MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare has authored a letter to Congress urging them to ensure safety is prioritized in the EHR Reporting Program that is already mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act. You can read that Act here and search “Sec. 3009A. Electronic Health Record Reporting Program” for the related information.

Complete the form by Feb. 28, 2019 to have your name included on this letter. They're focused on encouraging collective action this month—the 10-year anniversary of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that prompted the near universal adoption of EHRs—so healthcare providers, patients, policymakers, and EHR vendors can all play our part in helping realize the tremendous potential of EHRs over the next decade.

Link: https://ehrseewhatwemean.org/letter-to-congress/

Videos: https://ehrseewhatwemean.org/videos/

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A report from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) and The Health Management Academy entitled "Top of Mind for Top Health Systems 2019, Insights from health systems on IT priorities for the year ahead" has predicted that cybersecurity, telehealth and interoperability will be the most significant areas of health IT in terms of impact on health care in 2019. 

These areas were identified following consultation with health IT executives from some of the US's largest health systems, and quantitative and qualitative data was subsequently collected to explore each of these three areas further.

Improvement in cybersecurity programs was found to be the top priority for these executives. Breaches, and the potential exposure to harm that they pose to institutions (in terms of finance and reputation) are, however, being limited via network segmentation.

Maximising connectivity within the bounds of enhanced security, is the mission for health systems as data access requirements and use of connected devices and the Internet of Things increases. Health systems are spending on staff education and on security elements including firewalls, intruder detection software, and dual authentication to combat phishing, spear phishing (which employs targeting to a greater extent), malware and ransomware, these being the more common forms of attack seen over the past year according to this report. Regarding staff education one CMIO explained that in their view now: “An aspect of being a good clinician is stewardship of electronic patient data.” 

The potential advantages of telehealth, in terms of delivery of logistically appropriate care at low cost, make it, in terms of impact, the second ranking area of health IT in this study. Health IT executives unanimously envisaged an increased adoption of telehealth in 2019 with lack of reimbursement being cited as the greatest restriction to this currently, although there is an expectation that commercial and government payers will increase their contributions over the coming three years.“Integration with the clinical workflow” and “ease of patient triage and virtual follow-up” were the key features, identified in this report, that health executives are looking for in telehealth systems.

Although most health institutions in this study were not yet utilising advanced tools such as artificial intelligence (A.I).and machine learning (ML), the data from telehealth projects (and in particular those that involve remote patient monitoring) offer scope for analysis in order to create algorithms that could assist in prevention by predicting which patients are at greater risk i.e. the potential for machine learning to be employed to assist in prevention.

Interoperability was the third area identified in this report as significant, indeed, indicative of this sentiment is that fact that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who helped to drive the digitalisation of health systems through it's Meaningful Use requirements have, this year, changed the name of this program to "Promoting Interoperability".

Goals for interoperability in health care include data being easily accessed and downloaded by patients but also data being available for use in appropriate applications. Conversely inability to easily exchange data was described in this report, as having made it harder for health systems to address particular priorities, these being most commonly: improved efficiency / cost reduction, and advanced analytics, with the later being valuable as it in turn offers scope the areas of network integration, efficiency, identifying cost reductions and better patient care delivery. Addressing care gap closure, longitudinal patient data, and integration with non-owned partners were also identified as elements of the industry that are hampered by poor interoperability.

Interoperability has also been described as important in terms of innovation in healthcare technology because when a health system employs EHR from a larger vendor, looking outside of that vendors offerings for additional functionality becomes less appealing.

While the large technology companies, Apple, Amazon, and Google for example have prevailed other industries, they are relatively recently bringing their consumer-centred style to the healthcare industry. However 70% of informatics executives reported being “somewhat concerned” about Big Tech companies,
such as Apple, Amazon, and Google, entering the health care space with 10% "very concerned" according to this report. Despite this, health system executives were also reportedly aware of the potential for partnership with these “Big Tech” companies. 

With data centers an impractical answer to massive data volume storage in the longer term, most respondents in the report view a move to the cloud as certain eventually. However when asked to consider the next three years and where they expected the majority of their organisation's health care data to be stored , most executives (60%) answered in hybrid/private cloud, with 20% predicting that data centers will as the main location and only 10% envisaging storage in public cloud.

Looking beyond 2019 and over the coming five years, according to the contributors to this report we can expect artificial intelligence (AI), consumer technology, and genomics to provide the greatest impact health care.

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The constant pressure to reduce costs associated with health care delivery and concurrently improve services drives innovation in in the healthcare industry: From digital data management to innovative medical devices and diagnostic tools, appropriate use of technology has the potential to facilitate better care while also reducing the cost of it's delivery.

As such it is no surprise that healthcare technology adoption is gathering momentum globally despite barriers to their use: not just those associated with efficacy and cost, but also privacy and security concerns.

As technology assumes a greater and more widespread role in healthcare, the patient experience and clinician's workflows will changed. But, as the various constraints surrounding technology adoption are resolved, to what extent can clinicians and their patients expect their daily lives to be altered over the coming years?

A recent article entitled "Is Alexa About to Become a Doctor’s Assistant?" discusses a podcast with John Halamka, MD, CIO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare System and professor of international healthcare innovation at Harvard Medical School, where he predicts that mobile devices will dominate data access in terms of records, schedules, medications and more for both clinicians and patients. They will be used along with apps that integrate Internet of Things (IoT) data, allowing more individualised care as patients interact with their own electronic health record (EHR). He envisages reduced face to face contact between patients and clinicians (with accompanying reduction it the associated of time and monetary burden), this being replaced by telemedicine where appropriate and he expects the majority of healthcare applications to use the cloud.

In Prof Halamka's view, over the next year and a half we will also see blockchain technology assisting with patient consent for data sharing in two significant ways. He says: "It can host patient consent preferences in smart contracts that any application can access, clarifying how data can flow among stakeholders while respecting patient privacy preferences. Blockchain can also provide audit trails that ensure integrity of a medical record and track where data was exchanged. Blockchain will not replace EHRs—it’s not a database—but it will help build trust for health data sharing"

A CNBC article earlier this year reported that Amazon is bolstering it's position in the healthcare industry with creation of a health and wellness group for Alexa: Focusing initially on postpartum and diabetes services and with particular attention given to regulatory and data privacy provisions. In order for both patients and clinicians to interact with EMR via voice assistance, trust is paramount and therefore compliance with HIPAA necessary.

Prof Halamka predicts increasing use of voice assistance and added in the article "By the end of 2018, I predict Amazon Alexa will be covered by business associate agreements so that healthcare organizations can design Alexa skills that interact with EHRs and practice management systems while managing privacy." and goes on to say "We’ll even be able to use sentiment analysis to assess voices for stress, anxiety and depression."

With regards to artificial intelligence and machine learnings Prof Halamka predicts that the healthcare industry will need to improve stored data quality in order for it to be of a grade that enables training of machine learning algorithms. Increased use of machine learning in place of traditional methods of data analysis would also be his expectation and he comments in this article that: "Artificial intelligence will not replace clinicians; it will augment them. Although algorithms can identify patterns, they cannot apply emotional or human factors. If your doctor can be replaced by a computer, then he or she should be."

Earlier this year a Google cloud blog entry detailed "How Chrome Enterprise is helping healthcare companies provide better patient experiences", and described healthcare organisations as rapidly adopting Chrome OS due to it potentially being faster, more secure and also "integrated with critical virtualization solutions". Indeed In the longer term Prof Halamka agrees that Windows desktop will be replaced by Chromebooks running cloud hosted tools .

While the big or global players, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, for example, dominate the news relating to advances in healthcare delivery, new startups creating discrete projects have also proved successful and innovative services that integrate with current EHR hold particular promise moving forwards. So we can conclude that the only certainly in terms of the future of healthcare experience is that of constant evolution.

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eLearning Courses

Introduction to Health IT

This free online course, Introduction to Health IT: Health Management Information Systems, is a “theory” component that provides an introduction to health care applications and the systems that use them, health information technology standards, health-related data structures, and enterprise architecture in health care organizations.

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Installation and Maintenance of Health IT Systems

This free course, Installation and Maintenance of Health IT Systems, covers fundamentals of selection, installation and maintenance of typical Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. Students will be introduced to the principles underlying system configuration including basic hardware and software components, principles of system selection, planning, testing, troubleshooting, and final deployment.  System security and procedures will also be introduced in this component.

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Configuring Electronic Health Records

This free online course, Configuring Electronic Health Records, provides a practical experience with a laboratory component (utilizing the VistA for Education program) that will address approaches to assessing, selecting, and configuring EHRs to meet the specific needs of customers and end-users.

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Standards, Networking and Health Information Exchange

This free online course, Standards, Networking and Health Information Exchange, will introduce the student to networking and health information exchange aspects of health IT. The course covers the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) ISO standard, EHR and health data interchange standards and privacy and security issues associated with health information exchange.

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Usability and Human Factors

This free online course, Usability and Human Factors, will discussion of rapid prototyping, user-centered design understanding effects of new technology workflow on downstream processes; facilitation of unit-wide focus groups or simulation.

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Vendor-Specific Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems

This free online course, Vendor-Specific Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems, will provide an in-depth discussion in Vendor-Specific Systems, focusing specifically in areas such as system and database architectures used in commercial Electronic Health Records (EHRs), vendor strategies for terminology, knowledge management, ways to assess decision support capabilities in EHRs, and finally vendor-specific training (go-live strategies).

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Working with Health IT Systems

This free online course, Working with Health IT Systems, is a laboratory component. Students will work with simulated systems or real systems with simulated data.  As they play the role of practitioners using these systems, they will learn what is happening “under the hood.”  They will experience threats to security and appreciate the need for standards, high levels of usability, and how errors can occur.

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Working in Teams

Working in Teams is an experiential course that helps trainees become “team players” by understanding their roles, the importance of communication, and group cohesion.

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Professionalism/Customer Service in the Health Environment

This free online course, Professionalism/ Customer Service in the Health Environment, develops the skills necessary to communicate effectively across the full range of roles that will be encountered in healthcare and public health settings.

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Planning, Management and Leadership for Health IT

This free online course, Planning, Management and Leadership for Health IT, targets those preparing for leadership roles, principles of leadership and effective management of teams.  Emphasis on the leadership modes and styles best suited to IT deployment.

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Quality Improvement in Health IT

This free online course, Quality Improvement in Health IT, introduces the concepts of health IT and practice workflow redesign as instruments of quality improvement.  It addresses establishing a culture that supports increased quality and safety. It also discusses approaches to assessing patient safety issues and implementing quality management and reporting through electronic systems.

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Health Workflow Process Analysis & Redesign

This free online course, Health Workflow Process Analysis & Redesign, covers fundamentals of health workflow process analysis and redesign as a necessary component of complete practice automation.  Process validation and change management are also covered.

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Public Health IT

This free online course, Public Health IT, is specifically for individuals interested in a career in public health. This component will provide an overview of specialized public health applications such as registries, epidemiological databases, biosurvelliance, public health reporting alerts, quality reporting, and how to adopt/use of population health functions for electronic health records and consumer functions for personal health records. In addition, this component will address the potential of public health information technology for health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

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History of Health Information Technology in the U.S.

This free online course, History of Health Information Technology in the U.S., traces the development of IT systems in health care and public health, beginning with the experiments of the 1950s and 1960s and culminating in the HITECH act, including the introduction of the concept of “meaningful use” of electronic health records.

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