The Tardis Technician, aka MS Health Informatics Student.

A person can choose to never stop learning and this is the philosophy that I have adopted. I graduated from college more than ten years ago but since then, education, whether formal or informal, has and will always be a part of my life. My career can be said to be quite a curious one – I have an industrial economics degree, which I’ve applied in two industries, namely the automotive and hotel industries, and I also have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and I’ve worked in hospitals and aged care facilities. While these fields, at first glance, appear dissonant, I’ve learned that the skills in one can also be applied to the other. In particular, in my operations experience in the automotive and hotel industries, I have seen the advantage of the use of technology and believe that this can be used to an advantage in providing greater benefit in providing better patient care. It is this intersect — that of medicine and technology — that I would like to focus on and develop myself professionally. It is a direction where I can harmonize and apply what I have learned in my current and past roles. It is a field that is of extreme interest to me, not only because of its potential but also because I believe it is where I will develop my strengths. I have a natural inclination to the use of technology as I recognize, and have availed of, its benefits. At the same time, I feel fulfilled when I work in the medical field. It is challenging and rewarding to be directly responsible for the care and happiness of each patient that I have assisted.

Self-directed learning as a method of instruction is ideal for post-graduate studies. A more mature student can be trusted on to take initiative in seeking out answers and not merely relying on others to provide them. Education is as much the process as it is about the outcome. Self-directed learning promotes resourcefulness and discipline. It also makes the student accountable for his education. Because the student has actively chosen the path of his studies, he places a greater value on what is learned. In the modern world, it also creates an opportunity for a student to explore and develop his own interests and to adapt his studies to real world scenarios and experiences.

I lived in Australia for an extended period, during which, I took the opportunity to observe how hospitals and health care facilities used facilities to the benefit of patients. The use of technology helped in minimizing waiting time, assisted nurses and doctors in their tasks, improved efficiency and accuracy. This use of technology was not exercised not only in the high-end facilities but also in public hospitals. In stark contrast, I also worked in a Philippine local government hospital where I witnessed that there was a lack of resources, leading to problems such as not having a standard method of information data-gathering and patients experiencing delays in receiving medical attention. I would like to explore whether the prevalent use of technology, such as in Australia, can be replicated to some extent by our public hospital and facilities.  With this in mind, I’ve considered the following as possible areas of research: (A) because I’ve seen how long it can take to verify and re-verify the patient coming from one hospital to another, whether there can be a standardized system of patient information gathering and sharing among and between government and private hospitals – i.e. whether it would be possible for the hospital industry in to share a secured database for all the patients in the country, which would minimize the time it takes for patients to be admitted from a one hospital to another, may it be private or government; (B) maximizing mobile technology in improving patient care. Mobile technology such as tablets and smartphones have become affordable thus increasing accessibility.  This would be of particular help to low budget hospitals and health centers that would not have the capacity to purchase computers. I would like to know if there is a way to use this kind of mobile technology as a tool in improving the much needed improved data gathering of patient information and data access to help minimize the waiting time of each patient from the time they arrive in the medical institution until they are diagnosed and treated by the doctors; (C) whether mobile technology can be used by a barangay health center in monitoring data of its constituents, which would enable local government officials to: (i) ensure that it has the proper resources for the needs of its people such as medicines and equipment, and (ii) to promote the appropriate education/awareness campaigns and programs. I am hoping that in the course of my studies, I can get advice on which of the foregoing would be the most worthwhile pursuing or if these preliminary ideas can be further developed and formed into clearer research topics.

image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_the_Philippines_Manila

#HealthInformatics #MSHI #UPManila #Welcome2017!

Allons-y!

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Electronic Health Record: Issues and Challenges

This is already the 8th week blog for the subject HI201 Health Informatics. The driving question for this week is: “What are the issues and challenges in implementing electronic health records in primary care?”

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Before we proceed to answer the driving question, we need to qualify and narrow down our focus on the electronic health records in primary care for developing countries. One main reason is that most developed countries have already tackled and surpassed issues and challenges in implementing their electronic health records in primary care. We need to focus on developing countries such as the Philippines to help tackle the pending issues and challenges in implementing electronic health records in primary care.

What are Electronic Health Records (EHR)? Other names of EHRs are Automated Health Records (AHR), Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Computer-based Patient Record (CPR).

Electronic Health Record includes all information contained in a traditional health record including a patients health profile, behavioral and environmental information. As well as content, the EHR also includes the dimension of time, which allows for the inclusion of information across multiple episodes and providers, which will ultimately evolve into a lifetime record. (Mon, 2004, Amatayakul, 2004)”

Automated Health Records (AHR) – this term has been used to describe a collection of computer-stored images of traditional health record documents. These documents are typically scanned into a computer and the images are stored on optical disks. ( Electronic Health Records: A Manual for Developing Countries. World Health Organization, 2006 )

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) – similar with Automated Health Records, this has been used to describe automated systems based on document imaging or systems which have been developed within a medical practice or community health center. These include patient identification details, medications and prescription generation, laboratory results and in some cases recorded by doctors during patient consultation. EMRs are normally used within a hospital setting as their means of recording data of all their patients.  (Electronic Health Records: A Manual for Developing Countries. World Health Organization, 2006)

Computer-based Patient Record (CPR) – this was defined as a collection of health information for one patient linked by a patient identifier. The CPR could include as little as a single episode of care for a patient or healthcare information over an extended period of time. (Amatayakul, 2004)

Whether the term EHR,, AHR, EMR or CPR is used, it is important to recognize that the records must be organized primarily to support continuing, efficient and quality health care. The system must also continue to meet legal, confidentiality and retention requirements of the patient, the attending health professional and the healthcare institution.

There are a number of advantages in the move from a paper-based system to an electronic system. For one, there will be an improvement in the accuracy and quality of data recorded in a health record. Healthcare practitioners shall have enhanced access to a patient’s healthcare information enabling such information to be shared by relevant healthcare practitioners for the present and continuing care of the patient. Quality of care is expected to improve as a result of having health information immediately available at all times. There will be an improvement in the efficiency of the health care record service. There will also be lower healthcare costs for the patient as duplication of tests and procedures will be avoided.

What are the issues and challenges?

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The following issues and challenges are listed by the World Health Organization:

  1. Unique patient identifier must be addressed before moving forward to automation
  2. Clinical data entry issues and lack of standard of terminology
  3. Resistance to computer technology and lack of computer literacy
  4. Strong resistance to change by many healthcare providers
  5. High cost of computers and computer systems and funding limitations
  6. Concern by providers as to whether information will be available on request
  7. Concerns raised by healthcare professionals, patients and the general community about privacy, confidentiality and the quality and accuracy of electronically generated information
  8. Quality of electronic healthcare information and accuracy of data entries
  9. Lack of staff with adequate knowledge of disease classification systems
  10. Manpower issues – lack of staff with adequate skills
  11. Environmental issues – electrical wiring and supply of electricity, amount and quality of space needed for computers, etc.
  12. Involvement of clinicians and hospital administrators

 

How to address these issues and challenges? Some recommendations below.

  1. Use of a unique patient identifier that will give accurate results in data collection. Double counting will be minimized in the collection of data for the use of the hospital or the government in assessing the needed health programs to improve healthcare of the patients. The government must assist in ensuring that a single patient identifier will be created for the citizens to guide in proper data collection in the healthcare system. Herein, we see the value of the implementation of a national ID system.
  2. The biggest error in clinical data entry is the absence of a common data dictionary that will be used in the implementation of the EMR. This will give different meanings and definitions on each entry that can cause confusion and disarray in the analysis of the healthcare record of the patient. An agreed data dictionary that will be common for every user of the EHR will address one of the biggest errors in clinical data entry.
  3. Resistance to computer technology and lack of computer literacy are issues that go hand in hand in preventing the use of computer technology in the healthcare environment. There are 2 sets of people involved here, one set is composed of those who are computer literate but knowingly choose not to make use of computers in the implementation of EHRs. The other group is composed of those who totally do not have computer literacy, preventing them the use of EHRs even if they want to. With the continuous evolution of computer technology and the internet, proper education and guidance will remove the apprehension of users and educate new users in the use of EHRs in the healthcare environment.
  4. Any change in a system will have automatic resistance and the same can be said for healthcare providers. Resistance to change usually comes from not being aware of the new system and the uncertainty of future that it might bring to them. The best way to answer this is the involvement of the healthcare providers from the outset of preparations for the implementation of EHRs. This way, there will be familiarity with the upcoming healthcare information system and it will not be a shock to the healthcare providers.
  5. The high cost of hardware and software has a significant effect on the implementation of EHRs. Without the hardware, then there is no medium for the software to run and implement EHRs in the healthcare environment. With the current trend of computers becoming less expensive, the administrators and implementers of the EHRs should focus more on prioritizing the hardware and software needed to fully implement the EHRs. This means that the purchase of multiple medium specs computers must be prioritized over the purchase of high spec computers. Medium specs computers are likely to perform as well as high spec computers in the implementation of the EHRs
  6. The establishment of an EHR will address the concern of the providers regarding access to healthcare information of the patients. Such information is generated or stored in the database for future access.
  7. Data privacy is a big issue not only in the health sector but also in relation to other uses of computer technology. At a minimum, existing laws and regulations that address data privacy in the general sphere of technology should, at a minimum, apply to the health sector. Because of the sensitive nature of medical information, greater fines and penalties should be imposed on those who violate data privacy in EHRs.
  8. As with paper based recording, the accuracy of data collection is a big factor in the use of EHRs. One may have the EHR implemented, but with wrong data input on the files of the patient, the EHR will be more of a burden than benefit to the healthcare providers. Some factors of data quality are the accuracy and validity of the original source data. Data should be reliable, complete and legible. The data must also be recorded at point of care and available to authorized persons when and where needed for patient care.
  9. The coding of the disease classification system is still continually growing. This means that continuous training and education must be provided in proper coding for this sector of the healthcare information system.
  10. A well-oiled machine will work more efficiently than one lacking in oil. The same can be said for a well trained workforce in the healthcare environment. It is vital to have a well trained staff in the implementation of the EHR as this will make or break the successful use of the EHRs. Without proper staff manning the system, the EHR will just be another software inside the hard drive of the computer.
  11. Environmental issues include the electricity and space requirements in the implementation of EHRs. As most EHRs will be implemented within an existing healthcare environment, the additional impact on electrical use should be minimal. If an EHR will be implemented alongside the construction of a new healthcare provider, then the issues of electricity and space availability must also be addressed. In any event, electricity and space requirements or restrictions should be considered in the design of the system.
  12. As mentioned earlier, the involvement of the providers at the outset of the planning of EHR is vital. Clinicians and hospital administrators should likewise be involved as they will have the authority to ensure that there is a smooth transition in the implementation of the EHRs in the healthcare environment.

 

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Sources:

 

#MSHI #HI201

Allons-y!

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Enterprise Architecture in Healthcare

The driving question for this week is: “In a multistakeholder, multicomponent health information system, how can you ensure that all the players are doing their part?” A  question that follows is: “What enterprise architecture frameworks are available and which one is the best for the health sector?”

To answer the driving question, to ensure that all players are doing their part, there should be accountability. A good leader can act as the captain of the ship to ensure that everyone is doing his or her part. There should be a road map to follow to guide, not only the leader but also all participants as regards what direction to take and what their respective roles are.

With regard to information systems, this road map is, essentially captured in the concept of enterprise architecture (“EA”).  Gorton (2006) defines architecture as a system’s structure, its components and their respective functions, and how these components communicate. Gorton also states that architecture must address non-functional requirement issues like quality, and technical and business constraints. Architecture can refer to a wide range of contexts in IT, from a macroscopic framework — the blueprint for the IT system as a whole organization — to a design for one particular application.

According to Stansfield, et al., “The enterprise architecture provides the missing link to guide development and implementation of national health information systems.” EA places software development against a larger context enterprise — the whole business organization and how each individual part works with others. When defining software features and requirements, EA always refers back to the needs of the whole enterprise, in the context of the core processes and key customers. Essentially, EA is the interplay between a business and the information system that supports the business.

In the paper entitled “Alignment in Enterprises Architecture: A comparative analysis of Four Architectural Approaches by Magoulas, Hadzic, Saarikko and Pessi“, the four enterprises architecture provided are the Zachman Framework, The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), the Extended Enterprise Architecture Framework (E2AF) and the Generalised Enterprise Reference Architecture and Methodology (GERAM). These are described generally below:

The Zachman Framework was originally developed by John Zachman and extended to its current scope with the aid of John Sowa. In its inception, tThe purpose of the framework was to steer organizations away from the widespread practice of viewing the enterprise through static and disconnected models.

The Open Group Architecture Framework (The Open Group, 2009) was originally released in 1995. At the time, it was based upon TAFIM, a framework for information management developed by the United States Department of Defense. Currently in its ninth revision, TOGAF has gradually expanded its scope from strict management of IT towards a broader business orientation.

The Generalised Enterprise Reference Architecture and Methodology is a product of the IFAC/IFIP Task Force on Architectures for Enterprise Integration, founded in 1990. GERAM is designed so that the practitioner is able to combine different frameworks or methodologies in order to customs design a new architecture. Consequently, it is an extensive standard that includes meticulous descriptions of reference architectures, modeling languages, techniques and tools.

The Extended Enterprises Architecture Framework was created by Jasper Schekkerman in 2001. Rather than any unified documentation, E2AF is documented in several separate documents that are incremented in a piecemeal fashion. E2AF assumes a holistic approach to architecture, stating that an enterprise that is to function as a whole must be designed as a whole. Strong emphasis is also placed on contextual awareness and stresses constant awareness of threats and opportunities in the environment.

The “broader business orientation” of TOGAF reflects that widespread applications of this enterprise architecture. It can be applied not only within the IT sector but can expand to other sectors as well including the health sector. In the website, The Open Group.Org describes TOGAF as a framework that “enables organizations to effectively address critical business needs by:

  • Ensuring that everyone speaks the same language
  • Avoiding lock-in to proprietary solutions by standardizing on open methods for Enterprise Architecture
  • Saving time and money, and utilize resources more effectively
  • Achieving demonstrable ROI” (http://www.opengroup.org/subjectareas/enterprise/togaf/)

Magoulas, et al reflects on the strengths of TOGAF vis-à-vis functional alignment, structural alignment and contextual alignment. TOGAF, as an EA, ensures functional alignment “by operational contracts between customers and provides.” This can be transposed to the health sector space wherein we can put into place operational contracts between patients (i.e. customers) and health practitioners (i.e. providers). The other EAs do not appear to offer this advantage of functional alignment.

Structural alignment is promoted in TOGAF, which is “based on governance contracts, IT responsibility, data trustees and ownership of common applications.” These concepts are key in the health sector. Notably, none of the other three EAs appear to put much emphasis on these concepts. Lastly, contextual alignment, which provides for “harmony between the external and internal environments of the enterprise” is supported by TOGAF, which ensures alignment through “operational and governance contracts.” The TOFAF framework requires that enterprises comply with laws and regulations. The TOGAF framework is broad enough to apply to many sectors and industries, including health.

It is to be noted however that, while TOGAF is, among the four EAs discussed, the best EA for the health sector, a specific framework for the Philippine Health Information System can be developed and may find even better suitability. In the paper, PHIS: The Philippine Health Information System by Canlas RD Jr., the following were given as guidelines as based on a combination of principles from service-oriented architecture, software development methodology, public health and change management and intended to improve the success rate of PHIS implementation. Canlas, appears to have built on the general principles under popular EAs (including TOGAF) to set out a framework specific to the Philippine health information sector.

  1. Appoint an architect, convene a Governance Committee and define the master plan. The architect shall draft the master plan in close consultation with the Governance Committee which represents the policy and decision making body of the PHIS project.
  2. Train project staff and key stakeholders to give an overview of enterprise architecture and service oriented architecture, and how these will be used to design and develop PHIS.
  3. Develop with end-use in mind. Develop applications in the context of serving these needs. Gather only data that is relevant to end-use. It is better to focus resources on gathering data and creating applications that will be used immediately or in the near future.
  4. Treat users as co-developers. Developers need to include non-technical end-users even during the conceptualization and design stages and all throughout the development phase. This allows for a system that is more responsive to the needs of users. Engage users/ stakeholders from the start. It is important for PHIS to involve everyone who will be contributing to and using the system.
  5. Establish a legal foundation for privacy and confidentiality policies. This includes creating policies and laws not just to protect privacy but also to allow informed use of health information for activities.
  6. Applications as service; separate service delivery from implementation. Identify core business processes, then find applications that could provide services to support these processes. Think of data-gathering by different users as a process that could be served by a standard data service.
  7. Use open standards. This encourages flexibility, interoperability and minimize being locked into vendor-specific solutions.
  8. Take small steps. Tackle small projects with high chances of success. Starting small has the benefits of achieving early success which in turn builds more confidence and buy-in from everyone.
  9. Evolve gracefully. Instead of radically changing everything to a service-oriented infrastructure, start by transforming existing applications into services. Since service requesters do not need to know how a service is executed, developers can start by rewriting a few service providers, without impact on the requesters.

These recommended guidelines are significant because they frame the discussion beyond the popular EA principles and sets out a practical and relevant road map — one that is within the Philippine context.

Sources:
Canlas RD Jr. PHIS: The Philippines Health Information System – Critical Challenges and Solutions.
Sessions R. A Comparison of the Top Four Enterprise-Architecture Methodologies http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb466232.aspx

 

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Allons-y!

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