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Concept: Health informatics


Health care professionals, patients, caregivers, family, friends, and other supporters are increasingly joining online health communities to share information and find support. But social Web (Web 2.0) technology alone does not create a successful online community. Building and sustaining a successful community requires an enabler and strategic community management. Community management is more than moderation. The developmental life cycle of a community has four stages: inception, establishment, maturity, and mitosis. Each stage presents distinct characteristics and management needs. This paper describes the community management strategies, resources, and expertise needed to build and maintain a thriving online health community; introduces some of the challenges; and provides a guide for health organizations considering this undertaking. The paper draws on insights from an ongoing study and observation of online communities as well as experience managing and consulting a variety of online health communities. Discussion includes effective community building practices relevant to each stage, such as outreach and relationship building, data collection, content creation, and other proven techniques that ensure the survival and steady growth of an online health community.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Community, Web 2.0, Community building, Health informatics, Virtual community, Social media


The Internet is bringing fundamental changes to medical practice through improved access to health information and participation in decision making. However, patient preferences for participation in health care vary greatly. Promoting patient-centered health care requires an understanding of the relationship between Internet use and a broader range of preferences for participation than previously measured.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Health, Illness, Health science, Internet, Health informatics


BACKGROUND: Implementation and use of electronic health records (EHRs) could lead to potential improvements in quality of care. However, the use of EHRs also introduces unique and often unexpected patient safety risks. Proactive assessment of risks and vulnerabilities can help address potential EHR-related safety hazards before harm occurs; however, current risk assessment methods are underdeveloped. The overall objective of this project is to develop and validate proactive assessment tools to ensure that EHR-enabled clinical work systems are safe and effective. METHODS: This work is conceptually grounded in an 8-dimension model of safe and effective health information technology use. Our first aim is to develop self-assessment guides that can be used by health care institutions to evaluate certain high-risk components of their EHR-enabled clinical work systems. We will solicit input from subject matter experts and relevant stakeholders to develop guides focused on 9 specific risk areas and will subsequently pilot test the guides with individuals representative of likely users. The second aim will be to examine the utility of the self-assessment guides by beta testing the guides at selected facilities and conducting on-site evaluations. Our multidisciplinary team will use a variety of methods to assess the content validity and perceived usefulness of the guides, including interviews, naturalistic observations, and document analysis. The anticipated output of this work will be a series of self-administered EHR safety assessment guides with clear, actionable, checklist-type items. DISCUSSION: Proactive assessment of patient safety risks increases the resiliency of health care organizations to unanticipated hazards of EHR use. The resulting products and lessons learned from the development of the assessment guides are expected to be helpful to organizations that are beginning the EHR selection and implementation process as well as those that have already implemented EHRs. Findings from our project, currently underway, will inform future efforts to validate and implement tools that can be used by health care organizations to improve the safety of EHR-enabled clinical work systems.

Concepts: Health care, Evaluation, Risk, Implementation, Electronic health record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Personal health record


Purchasing electronic health records (EHRs) typically follows a process in which potential adopters actively seek information, compare alternatives, and form attitudes towards the product. A potential source of information on EHRs that can be used in the process is vendor websites. It is unclear how much product information is presented on EHR vendor websites or the extent of its value during EHR purchasing decisions.

Concepts: Electronic health record, Electronic medical record, Medical record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Personal health record, Gramophone record, Public records


BACKGROUND: Various problems concerning the introduction of personal health records in everyday healthcare practice are reported to be associated with physicians' unfamiliarity with systematic means of electronically collecting health information about their patients (e.g. electronic health records - EHRs). Such barriers may further prevent the role physicians have in their patient encounters and the influence they can have in accelerating and diffusing personal health records (PHRs) to the patient community. One way to address these problems is through medical education on PHRs in the context of EHR activities within the undergraduate medical curriculum and the medical informatics courses in specific. In this paper, the development of an educational PHR activity based on Google Health is reported. Moreover, student responses on PHR’s use and utility are collected and presented. The collected responses are then modelled to relate the satisfaction level of students in such a setting to the estimation about their attitude towards PHRs in the future. METHODS: The study was conducted by designing an educational scenario about PHRs, which consisted of student instruction on Google Health as a model PHR and followed the guidelines of a protocol that was constructed for this purpose. This scenario was applied to a sample of 338 first-year undergraduate medical students. A questionnaire was distributed to each one of them in order to obtain Likert-like scale data on the sample’s response with respect to the PHR that was used; the data were then further analysed descriptively and in terms of a regression analysis to model hypothesised correlations. RESULTS: Students displayed, in general, satisfaction about the core PHR functions they used and they were optimistic about using them in the future, as they evaluated quite high up the level of their utility. The aspect they valued most in the PHR was its main role as a record-keeping tool, while their main concern was related to the negative effect their own opinion might have on the use of PHRs by patients. Finally, the estimate of their future attitudes towards PHR integration was found positively dependent of the level of PHR satisfaction that they gained through their experience (rho = 0.524, p <0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that students support PHRs as medical record keeping helpers and perceive them as beneficial to healthcare. They also underline the importance of achieving good educational experiences in improving PHR perspectives inside such educational activities. Further research is obviously needed to establish the relative long-term effect of education to other methods of exposing future physicians to PHRs.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Education, Physician, Electronic health record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Personal health record


BACKGROUND: Research on practical and effective governance of the health workforce is limited. This paper examines health system strengthening as it occurs in the intersection between the health workforce and governance by presenting a framework to examine health workforce issues related to eight governance principles: strategic vision, accountability, transparency, information, efficiency, equity/fairness, responsiveness and citizen voice and participation. METHODS: This study builds off of a literature review that informed the development of a framework that describes linkages and assigns indicators between governance and the health workforce. A qualitative analysis of Health System Assessment (HSA) data, a rapid indicator-based methodology that determines the key strengths and weaknesses of a health system using a set of internationally recognized indicators, was completed to determine how 20 low- and middle-income countries are operationalizing health governance to improve health workforce performance.Results/discussion: The 20 countries assessed showed mixed progress in implementing the eight governance principles. Strengths highlighted include increasing the transparency of financial flows from sources to providers by implementing and institutionalizing the National Health Accounts methodology; increasing responsiveness to population health needs by training new cadres of health workers to address shortages and deliver care to remote and rural populations; having structures in place to register and provide licensure to medical professionals upon entry into the public sector; and implementing pilot programs that apply financial and non-financial incentives as a means to increase efficiency. Common weaknesses emerging in the HSAs include difficulties with developing, implementing and evaluating health workforce policies that outline a strategic vision for the health workforce; implementing continuous licensure and regulation systems to hold health workers accountable after they enter the workforce; and making use of health information systems to acquire data from providers and deliver it to policymakers. CONCLUSIONS: The breadth of challenges facing the health workforce requires strengthening health governance as well as human resource systems in order to effect change in the health system. Further research into the effectiveness of specific interventions that enhance the link between the health workforce and governance are warranted to determine approaches to strengthening the health system.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Health economics, Medicine, Healthcare, Health informatics, Governance, Accountability


Frankel and colleagues have compared Israel and the U.S.’s experiences with health information exchange (HIE). They highlight the importance of institutional factors in fostering HIE development, notably the influence of local structures, experience and incentives. Historically, information infrastructure in the U.S. has been limited due to lack of standards, fragmented institutions and competition. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 authorized billions of dollars for the adoption and “Meaningful Use” of electronic health records. HITECH programs and Meaningful Use incentives target the advancement of HIE through 1) building blocks, 2) local support and 3) payment incentives. Meaningful Use requirements create a roadmap to broader electronic exchange of health information among providers and with patients. Ultimately, successful HIE in the U.S. will depend on whether Meaningful Use can address institutional needs within local markets.This is a commentary on

Concepts: Health care, Experience, Information, Electronic health record, Health informatics, Institution, Medical informatics, Health information exchange


Methods to identify and study safety risks of electronic health records (EHRs) are underdeveloped and largely depend on limited end-user reports. “Safety huddles” have been found useful in creating a sense of collective situational awareness that increases an organization’s capacity to respond to safety concerns. We explored the use of safety huddles for identifying and learning about EHR-related safety concerns.

Concepts: Electronic health record, Electronic medical record, Health informatics, Medical informatics, Personal health record


Health care professionals are utilizing Twitter to communicate, develop disease surveillance systems, and mine health-related information. The immediate users of this health information is the general public, including patients. This necessitates the validation of health-related tweets by health care professionals to ensure they are evidence based and to avoid the use of noncredible information as a basis for critical decisions.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Epidemiology, Critical thinking, Illness, Health informatics, Public relations


The PACE trial compared the effectiveness of adding adaptive pacing therapy (APT), cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), or graded exercise therapy (GET), to specialist medical care (SMC) for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This paper reports the relative cost-effectiveness of these treatments in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) and improvements in fatigue and physical function.

Concepts: Health care, Health economics, Medicine, Illness, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Behaviorism, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Health informatics