Health Informatics Blog moved to http://www.cdsharp.com/health-informatics-blog/

March 28, 2013 1 comment

WordPress has been a wonderful platform for helping me get used to the ins and outs of blogging. However, I have recently consolidated my website and blog into my grant writing & consulting website at http://www.cdsharp.com.  Please visit the blog there:  http://www.cdsharp.com/health-informatics-blog/

Categories: Uncategorized

Understanding US Health Care Reform

July 25, 2012 1 comment

US Health Care Reform: A big deal!

As we travelled from Canada to and from Boston around the first week of July, the US Supreme Court ruling on health care reform dominated all media coverage.  Hype and polarizing condemnation of the high court’s decision was rampant, with Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, vowing to undo it if elected.  This is not surprising. What was surprising was that most Americans we spoke to – Democrat or Republican – were also unhappy with the decision.  Concerns ranged from fears that the new health care reform law would result in rationing of health care, to expectations that it would result in lower quality of care, along with increased costs to individuals, small businesses and the government.  Many were skeptical about being required to buy insurance, seeing it as a curb on individual freedom and a step down a slippery slope towards socialism.

Need for reform

The US health care system is an expensive and inefficient system (see the McKinsey Global Institute report: Accounting for the cost of US health care: A new look at why Americans spend more. According to the US Census Bureau report: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, 49.9 million people were estimated to be without health insurance (p. 23).  An overhaul of the system seems necessary, but with all the hype and political wrangling, it is difficult to sort out what is being proposed and why.

So what is being proposed?

Illustrating Health Reform: How Health Insurance Coverage Will Work

This 10-minute animated movie, written and produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation, is an excellent, balanced summary of what is being proposed and why.

Kaiser Health Reform Gateway

Statistics, analysis and discussion from the Kaiser Family Foundation web site.

US Health Care Reform

Details on health reform from the White House governmental web site.

New York Times: Health Care Reform

Article and related discussion, debate and news links.

Postsecret.com. Confessional 2.0!

March 17, 2012 2 comments

Last week, I was fortunate to attend a presentation  given at Western University, London, Ontario by Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret.com.  He spoke to a capacity crowd of over 2000 students (mostly) and yet the presentation seemed very personal, casual and confiding. The audience was riveted – alternately moved to thoughtfulness, laughter, disbelief, and, occasionally, to tears.  The success of PostSecret.com is fascinating.  It speaks of the fantastic possibilities that the right blend of technology, human creativity, careful management (and empathy, in this case) can offer.

Frank started PostSecret.com as a local community art project seven years ago, handing out postcards to strangers in Washington DC and telling people to mail them back to him at his home anonymously, with a secret they had never shared with anyone else before.  Of the 3,000 postcards he gave out, he received about 75 back, many with drawings, photos or other art, along with a shared secret. He then scanned and posted a selection of the postcards on his blog. Much to his surprise, he then started getting postcards from other cities in America, and then from around the world.  So far he has received over 400,000 postcards, and still gets about 1,000 new secrets a week. There are travelling art shows of parts of the postcard collection, the blog gets around 1 million hits every week and 5 books of secrets have been published so far.  Frank has a busy speaking schedule at college campuses and he has raised over $1 million to support mental health. Frank reads every postcard he gets. He speaks with respect for the sentiment expressed in each postcard, and with enjoyment of the art that expresses it.

I only discovered Postsecret.com last week and, hearing of its success, I recalled the quip about Wikipedia: it only works in practice, not in theory!  Now I know more, it is not surprising Postsecret.com is so popular.  Each postcard voices the need to share something, and this avenue provides a safe outlet. Souls are laid bare, yet no one is condemned or judged. No individual is identified, yet all of us can identify with some of the regrets, yearnings, resentments, fears or sly triumphs recorded in the cards. Many cards affirm a therapeutic benefit in being able to share their secret. This seems to be what Confessional 2.0 looks like!  Collectively, the cards must contain a goldmine of research material about humanity!

Two practical and useful social media guides for research and policy engagement

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Two practical and useful social media guides for research and policy engagement

Social media has a significant impact on how individuals communicate, interact and collaborate.  It should be an important component in any researcher’s toolkit, to engage stakeholders, gather and analyse data, and disseminate findings. However, most often it isn’t, because  it is still so new, and because there is yet much to be discovered, explored and understood regarding its capabilities, utilities, pitfalls, and practical uses as a tool and mechanism in conducting and disseminating research.   Social Media: A guide for researchers  produced by Alan Cann of the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester, and Konstantia Dimitriou and Tristram Hooley of the International Centre for Guidance Studies, offers a  useful  and practical guide to engaging a range of resources.

Impact 2.0 – New mechanisms for linking research and policy  was originally developed by Cheekay Cinco and Karel Novotney, at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and is now managed and updated by Fundacion Comunica, with the financial support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).  It seeks to develop a body of knowledge about the use of Web 2.0 in policy-oriented research and design.  Perhaps on account of the scale, scope and speed of change in new communication tools and technologies,  these  tools have not been extensively exploited in promoting and strengthening links between research, advocacy and policy. This guide can be helpful to researchers who wish to better understand how social networking tools can be used to identify the main policy actors,  issues, connected themes, and opportunities; how  these tools can be used to encourage discussion, debate and collaboration; and  how to leverage them in  engaging and maintaining relations with policy makers and other important stakeholders.

NIH Commissioned Study Results on Race, Ethinicity and NIH Research Awards.

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Findings of a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) commissioned study to investigate gaps in NIH grant success rates among various racial and ethnic groups have been published in the Aug 19 issue of Science.  The study reported that even after controlling for education, institution, and other factors that influence the likelihood of success, black investigators were still 10 percentage points less likely than white investigators to receive a new research project grant.

Dr. Lawrence Collins, Director of the NIH, and Lawrence Tabak, NIH Principal Deputy Director, have pledged to remedy that with a thorough investigation of ways to improve the peer review process, encourage greater diversity on review boards, increase technical assistance to applicants in grant preparation, and support innovative ways to increase local mentoring of junior faculty.    As they say in their commentary “Troubling data such as these require substantive action. Compelling evidence supports the view that diversification of the research workforce is an imperative for our nation’s continued success”. They call upon every institution and scientist supported by NIH to join in reinvigorating efforts to diversify the nation’s current and future biomedical research workforce.

The study can be downloaded  here

Lawrence Tabak and Francis Collins Commentary on the study can be downloaded here.

News article about the study can be downloaded here

Peer review under review

August 16, 2011 1 comment

Two interesting reports were mentioned on  DocuTicker today concerning the use of peer review in scientific publications:  Peer review in scientific publications by the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee; and Alternatives to peer review in research funding by the Rand Corporation.

A detailed examination of the current peer-review system was conducted this year by the UK Science and Technology Committee,  examining its effectiveness, and  touching on issues of impact, publication ethics and research integrity.  Among its recommendations the report advocated for a development of standards and training for all editors and, particularly, for early-career researchers in peer review, acknowledging that the system depends on the integrity and competence of the people involved, and the degree of editorial oversight and the quality assurance of the peer review system itself.  The committee felt strongly that research data should be fully disclosed and, especially in the case of publicly funded research, made publicly available, to ensure reliability, testing, and reproducibility. Citing the importance of post-publication peer review and commentary, the use of new media and social networking tools was seen as an “enormous opportunity for experimentation” as a supplement to pre-publication peer-review. As well  post-publication review was recognized as an important vehicle in ensuring wide and expedient transmission of interesting research,  facilitation of rapid review by the global audience, and  in alerting the community to ”potential deficiencies and problems with published work”.

The Rand Europe Report, Alternatives to Peer Review in Research Project Funding  acknowledged that while peer review is considered the gold standard for reviewing research proposals, it is not always the best methodology for every research funding process.  The discussion of a set of established approaches that offer alternatives to traditional peer review are presented to inspire thinking among research funders to apply based on their situation and mission.

Google Health PHR is being retired after all

June 27, 2011 6 comments

An official Google Blog post on 24 June announced that  Google Health will be retired in January 2012 as it has not resulted in the broad impact anticipated at its launch three years ago.  Patients will be able to download their data through January 1, 2013. Google Health’s no-cost, secure, online, open source, patient health record made available to health consumers, was expected to improve health care by enabling patients to be partners in the management of their health.

Most health records worldwide are still paper-based, and those in electronic format may be scattered among hospitals, doctor offices and specialists. Technology standards and data ownership issues are yet not clearly defined, so populating personal health record with data can be an onerous task.  Adoption of personal health records involves a fairly steep learning curve and a change in cultural mindset.   Finally, the cost of housing data and creating applications to make the data useable and secure is high.  Though disappointing, it is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that Google has pulled out of the personal health record space.

In Canada, Telus Health Space has moved into personal health record provision, building on the Microsoft Health Vault platform,  partnering with hospitals, health care associations, and academic research initiatives to standardize technologies and encourage development of applications to make PHRs more useful and user-friendly.  Telus Health Space is not free, however; it  is only available to users for a fee, which might make it a more sustainable business model.