Category Archives: Health Data and IT

Dec 12 2014
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A Brave New ‘Post-Mendelian’ World

Lainie Ross, MD, PhD, is a 2013 recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. During her fellowship year, she will work on a book tentatively titled, From Peapods to Whole Genomes: Incidental Findings and Unintended Consequences in a Post-Mendelian World.

Lainie Ross

Human Capital Blog: What are some of the incidental findings and unintended consequences you will discuss in your book?

Lainie Ross: First, let me explain what I mean by “incidental findings.” Incidental findings refer to unanticipated information discovered in the course of medical care or research that may or may not have clinical significance. They are not unique to genetics. In some studies, up to one in four diagnostic imaging tests have incidental findings, although most do not have immediate clinical consequences.

One example of an incidental finding that I discuss in the book involves incidental findings uncovered while screening candidates for research participation. This can range from discovering high blood pressure (known as the “silent killer”) to extra sex chromosomes in people who volunteer as “healthy controls.” This raises the question of what is a clinically significant or “actionable” finding, and what information should be returned to the research participant. These types of questions are critical, especially because many research consent forms have historically stated that “no results will be returned.”

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Nov 17 2014
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Is Louisville, Kentucky, the New Face of Asthma Healthography?

Meredith Barrett, PhD, is vice president of science and research at Propeller Health, a health technology company working to reduce the burden of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program at the University of California (UC), Berkeley and UC, San Francisco. Learn about the RWJF Briefings @ the Booth at the APHA Annual Meeting on Monday, November 17 and Tuesday, November 18.

Meredith Barrett

Leaders in Louisville, Kentucky, know first-hand that where you live and work affects your health and well-being. During a special session at the American Public Health Association’s meeting this week in New Orleans, we explore how the air quality in Louisville neighborhoods impacts the health, economy and overall vibrancy of the community. And we’ll highlight how Louisville is the poster child for tackling tough issues like asthma head-on, top-down and bottom-up, through data and collaboration among individual residents, corporate execs, community organizers and public leaders. 

American Public Health Association Meeting & Expo

Asthma attacks are sneaky, expensive and debilitating, yet almost entirely preventable.

Asthma is one of the most common and costly chronic diseases in the United States, affecting more than 8 percent of the U.S. population. Despite decades of research and the development of effective treatments, rates of morbidity have not declined and health care costs reach more than $50 billion a year. Asthma also leads to more than 13 million missed days of school and 10 million missed days of work, negatively affecting educational achievement, employee productivity and regional business growth. But the most frustrating part is that a large proportion of these hefty impacts could be avoided with improvements in self-management, community policy and advances in digital health care.

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Oct 30 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Scapegoating EHRs, Ebola fears, children fighting cancer, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

In an article published in Healthcare IT News, David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, writes that health care providers may be too quick to blame Electronic Health Records (EHR) for medical errors. Blumenthal notes that EHRs are still imperfect and that improvements will take time, but argues: “There is no going back in the electronic health information revolution. No physician or hospital, however loud their complaints, has ever thrown out their EHR and returned to paper. The dissatisfaction with the technology will recede as EHRs improve, and as a new generation of young clinicians, raised in the electronic world, populates our health care system.”  Blumenthal is president of The Commonwealth Fund, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient.

In a blog published by the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage,” Shana Gadarian, PhD, and her co-author write that Ebola anxiety, while potentially misplaced and harmful, is likely to have an impact on whom Americans trust to handle the disease and what kinds of policies they will support to fight it. The authors have studies society’s reactions to small pox and H1N1 flu. “In general we find that anxiety makes people more supportive of government playing an expansive role in protecting them during a health crisis ... we think our study and the current Ebola outbreak both emphasize that people will rally around experts and increase their support for policies that fight the contagion, even if they hurt civil liberties. Let us hope that the U.S. health system is ultimately worthy of the confidence the public has in it.” Gadarian is an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna.

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Aug 19 2014
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Nurse Practitioners Make a Difference with Mobile Clinic

Nurse practitioners enjoyed prime time TV coverage when Sunday’s 60 Minutes program ran a segment about the Health Wagon, a mobile clinic serving six counties in an impoverished Appalachian coal-mining region in southwestern Virginia.

The segment, originally broadcast in April, highlighted the work of Teresa Gardner and Paula Hill-Meade, both doctors of nursing practice, who currently see approximately 20 patients a day in a converted RV, while also keeping up with up fundraising responsibilities related to the federal grants and corporate and private donations that keep the organization going.

Their patients “are people that are in desperate need,” Meade told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. “They have no insurance and they usually wait, we say, until they are train wrecks. Their blood pressures come in at emergency levels. We have blood sugars come in at 500, 600, because they can’t afford their insulin. ...They have nowhere else to go.”

However, Gardner said, as demanding as the work is, “we get more out of it than we ever give.”

Watch the 60 Minutes segment on CBS News online.

Jul 7 2014
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The Burden of Stress in America

A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health poll released today finds that about half of the public reported a major stressful event or experience in the past year. Nearly half (43 percent) reported that the most stressful experiences related to health.

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More than half of those who experienced a great deal of stress in the past month say too many overall responsibilities and financial problems were contributors. More than a third of those with a great deal of stress say the contributors include their own health problems and health problems of family members. 

“Stress touches everyone. Unfortunately, many of those feeling the most stress get trapped in cycles that can be very unhealthy. If we are going to build a culture of health in America, one big step we can take is recognizing the causes and effects not just of our own stress and the stress of those closest to us, but of others we encounter in our day-to-day lives,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO.

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Jun 25 2014
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What's Next Health: Keith Wailoo

In this interview with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's  Steve Downs, SM, historian Keith Wailoo, PhD, discusses how we define our own cultures of health and shares how deeply held cultural narratives influence our perceptions of health. Wailoo is jointly appointed in the Department of History and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. This video is part of the RWJF What's Next Health series. Also check out the accompanying infographic.

 

Infographic: When 'Good' Data Goes Bad

Good data can play a critical role in answering some of our most vexing questions concerning health. But history shows us that data is never collected or analyzed in a vacuum. Instead, the culture of the times acts as a lens that can either obscure or reveal truth. Here is one example, looking at the history of data collection concerning cancer and race.

View the infographic

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Apr 30 2014
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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Use Electronic Health Records to Discover How to Improve Outcomes.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Bonnie L. Westra, PhD, RN, FAAN, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Westra is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program. 

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Electronic health records (EHRs) are rapidly proliferating and contain data about health or the lack thereof for minority communities. Evidence-based practice (EBP) guidelines can be embedded in EHRs to support the use of the latest scientific evidence to guide clinical decisions.  However, scientific evidence may not reflect differences in minority communities served.

As a first step to compare the effectiveness of EBP guidelines for minority populations, practicing nurses and nurse leaders need to advocate for implementation of EBP nursing guidelines in EHRs. Additionally, EBP guidelines must be coded with national nursing data standards to compare effectiveness within and across minority communities. Nurse researchers need to conduct comparative effectiveness research to learn how to optimize EBP guidelines for minority communities through the reuse of EHR data and to derive patient-driven evidence.

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Apr 10 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Electronic health records, nurse mentoring, ‘longevity gaps,’ and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

The California Action Coalition has developed a mentorship program that is helping prepare the next generation of nurses to serve as leaders on health care reform. The state’s mentorship program dovetails with the 2014 leadership focus of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national effort backed by RWJF and AARP that is working to transform health care through nursing. “Mentoring is key to strengthening any leader,” Mary Dickow, MPA, tells Nurse Zone. “Having strong mentors in my life helped me think differently and advance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.” Dickow is statewide director of the California Action Coalition.

A recent interview in the Atlantic with David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, has generated numerous comments from readers weighing in on the merits of electronic health records (EHRs). Blumenthal is former national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He points out in the interview that EHRs offer “substantial” benefits for patients, but notes that in the short-term, providers incur significant costs and that it will take time to make the transition to EHRs. The Atlantic has now published several articles highlighting reader comments, which can be found here, here, and here. FierceEMR published a story about the give-and-take, which notes that many of the commenters who are skeptical about the value of EHRs are physicians.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program University of Wisconsin-Madison Site Director David Kindig, MD, PhD, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU radio to discuss the “longevity gap,”—the growing gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Kindig and other guests explore how health care reform and policies to address income inequality might affect the gap.

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Feb 7 2014
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A Call for Better Measures: The Well-Being of a Population is Consequential

Cary Gross, MD, is a professor of medicine and co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University. Carley Riley, MD, MPP, is an RWJF Clinical Scholar and Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MS, is an RWJF/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar. This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series.

file Cary Gross

As a new year begins, we are inundated with information summarizing the prior year: the top 10 movies, most newsworthy moments, and worst Hollywood breakups. Yet the topic that draws the most attention is the economy and our financial health. We gather a tremendous amount of information to assess this. The Census Bureau randomly selects 60,000 households each month, unleashing a swarm of 2,000 field representatives to track down the selected participants and assess their employment status. The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys 500,000 businesses to estimate job creation. Approximately 5,000 “consumers” are surveyed each month to gauge their confidence. And so on.

file Carley Riley

So there you have it: we know that in 2013, the unemployment rate decreased from 7.9 percent to 6.7 percent, about 2.1 million new jobs were created, consumer confidence increased, and the Dow Jones index rose by 26.5 percent. Certainly, the health of the national economy is important, but is this the type of health that really matters most? When envisioning a healthy life, many people think about the sort of health that allows us to engage in enjoyable activities, maintain strong interpersonal relationships, and feel that our lives have purpose. A full assessment of health—of individuals, communities, and the country—should assess these dimensions.

file Brita Roy

Aren’t we already awash in data about health and well-being? Yes and no. There are abundant data concerning insurance status, prevalence of diseases, and utilization of health care. Additionally, large national survey efforts through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gather information on disease risk factors and health behaviors.  But well-being is not captured by these data. Well-being is a comprehensive construct accounting for interwoven facets—such as physical, mental, and social health—that together comprise a global assessment of true health. It refers to a positive state of health that allows for the pursuit of meaningful activities, formation of a cohesive social network, planning for the future, and coping with, overcoming, and even growing from negative events.

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Dec 3 2013
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The “Next Best Thing” to Being There: Robots Expand Physicians’ Reach

Telepresence robots are expanding access to specialists in rural hospitals experiencing shortages of physicians, and in other hospitals throughout the country, reports the Associated Press.

Devices such as the RP-VITA, introduced earlier this year, can be controlled remotely with a desktop computer, laptop, or iPad, allowing physicians to interact with patients through video-conferencing via a large screen that projects the doctor's face. An auto-drive function allows the robot to find its way to patients' rooms, and sensors help it avoid obstacles. It also gives the physician access to clinical data and medical images.

Dignity Health, a hospital system with facilities in Arizona, California, and Nevada, started using telepresence robots five years ago to promptly evaluate patients who had potentially suffered strokes.  Dignity now has robots in emergency rooms and intensive care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics, and mental health.

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