Author Archives: Susan Promislo

A landmark first for the Archimedes model

Apr 19, 2010, 4:13 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo

At the very end of March, study findings were released in the online edition of The Lancet indicating that it is more effective from a cost and detection standpoint to begin screening for Type 2 diabetes in people between the ages of 30 and 45 — 15 years ahead of what established guidelines had been recommending.  Subsequent screenings should take place every three to five years thereafter.

While this is an important result for the medical community, the most significant piece of this story, in our opinion, was not covered in the news.  What really caught our attention was the fact that this was the first time The Lancet has ever published a peer-reviewed paper for which the research was based entirely on a simulated population and treatment options existing within a mathematical model – in this case, the Archimedes model of human physiology, diseases, interventions and health care systems.

For the study, the researchers simulated a population of 325,000 nondiabetic 30-year-olds.  According to Archimedes President and CEO John Beasley, “This paper presents the results of an international study that would never have been possible using an actual clinical trial. It would have required enrolling and following more than a million people for 45 years; the cost would have been astronomical.  The study examined the criteria for deciding when to screen for diabetes and Archimedes was the only model that could conduct a clinical trial simulation at this advanced level.”

We’re excited to see validation of the strength of the Archimedes methodology at this level.  Watch the blog for more updates soon on the status of the ARCHeS project, which will make it possible for public and health policy leaders to access the model to conduct their own virtual clinical trials from their desktops.  The vision is that a wide variety of key decisions will be informed by equally strong results from the model’s predictive analyses, and the sharing of findings powered by Archimedes will become common practice in peer-reviewed journals.

New Project HealthDesign Grantees Tackle ODL Challenges

Mar 3, 2010, 1:41 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo


Today, Pioneer and Project HealthDesign announced the five new grantee teams 
selected in the program’s second round of funding.  They’ll be breaking new ground in testing ways that patient-generated observations of daily living (ODLs) can be collected, integrated in clinical care processes and, ultimately, organized for action to drive smarter heath decisions by both patients and providers.  Congratulations to the grantees, who rose to the top of an applicant pool numbering nearly 150 with their innovative ideas and robust approaches:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • RTI International and Virginia Commonwealth University
  • San Francisco State University
  • University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Healthy Communities Foundation and University of California, San Francisco
  • University of California, Irvine and Charles Drew University

The teams will be working with patient populations that are managing two or more chronic conditions to collect and store various health observations that arise in the course of their day to day lives.  A later technical challenge will be to figure out best ways to share meaningful signals from these ODLs with providers and integrate that data in to clinical work flows.  National Program Director Patti Brennan writes more about this on the Project HealthDesign blog.

The patient groups are compelling, and you can see how making sense of ODLs and being able to act on them can have a tremendous outcome on their health.  Patients can use technologies like smartphones and biomonitors to harness information that better equips them to manage their conditions and make decisions that hopefully allow them to experience better outcomes, day in and day out.  Providers will get a far fuller picture of the way health plays out for their patients and be able to act on more meaningful information than that typically collected in a periodic office visit conversation. 

For example, parents of low birth weight babies will use a specially designed mobile device, "FitBaby," to record ODLs such as the baby’s temperament, exercise, feeding and sleeping schedules, as well as the caregivers’ stress levels and attitude swings. Providing nearly real-time data to clinicians will help alert them to early signs of health problems, which is crucial in treating low birth weight infants.  Another team will help young adults who suffer from Chron’s disease create visual narratives of their condition and treatment to provide concrete feedback to providers about how they feel from day to day. Patients will track ODLs of physical symptoms like diarrhea, bleeding, and profound weight loss, along with more complex social and emotional observations.

The path is not entirely clear, and lots of questions will be raised along the way.  Which is why the grantees will be sharing their learnings, experiences, road blocks, questions and successes along the way, largely via the Project HealthDesign blog and Web site.  We want their progress to be an open path along which you follow and help to guide.  We’ll be sharing updates and hope you’ll check in often as well.

Join Pioneer at TED 2010 - Health's Future, Powered by You and Your Data

Feb 9, 2010, 11:12 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo


TED2010 – the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference – kicks off today and runs through the 13th in Long Beach, CA, with the Pioneer Portfolio resuming its role as an event sponsor.  There’s an amazing lineup of speakers, and we’re especially excited that two Pioneer grantees will take the main stage.  Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School will be speaking on Thursday about the power of our social networks to influence the spread of health and social phenomena, including obesity, happiness and smoking cessation.  And Phil Howard, chair of Common Good and leading spokesperson for the work we have supported to test administrative health courts to overhaul our broken system of medical justice, will address the TED audience on Saturday.  

They’ll be among impressive company, joining speakers and performers including HIV vaccine researcher Seth Berkley, molecular technologist George Church, Bill Gates, musicians David Byrne and Sheryl Crow, behavioral economics founder Daniel Kahneman, game designer and Pioneer friend Jane McGonigal, chef Jamie Oliver and former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, among many others. 


We’ll be leading two activities at TED – a luncheon on Thursday that will highlight the future of data-driven, patient-centered care.  We’re teeing up the following questions – in a world with abundant, accessible, actionable health data, how will our level of engagement in our health and health care change?  What expectations of doctors, nurses and other providers will we have, and what expectations will they have of us?  If we have and use our data – both those logged in our electronic medical records and those generated in the course of our everyday lives – how might our decisions change?  Behaviors?  Demands? 

It’s a fascinating conversation, and one that will feature Pioneer team director Paul Tarini as moderator WIRED executive editor Thomas Goetz and Beth Israel Deaconess primary care visionary and Open Notes grantee Tom Delbanco.  Thomas is releasing a book called The Decision Tree later this month that explores this new approach to health in which patients harness their data and use decision trees – essentially health-oriented flow charts – to engage more meaningfully in health decisions and manage their care more intentionally, leading ideally to better outcomes.  Tom will spotlight the role for providers to innovate in this space.  He’s leading the way in making health data for the patient – not just about the patient – by placing the information doctors enter in our medical records and clinical encounter notes,directly in our hands and revolutionizing our role in our health care.  We'll record the event and post it as a Podcast later in the week.   We’ll also be running an exhibit space all week, the centerpiece of which is a video drawn from interviews with a range of Pioneer staff, grantees and other experts on the leading edge of this data-driven, patient-centered vision.  A big shout out to our partners at DDB Issues and Advocacy, who turned hours of telephone interview transcipts in to a beautiful, dynamic and thought-provoking brief video that makes text – and these ideas – jump off the screen and challenge you.  I love this video and urge you to check it out and add your ideas and reactions on our YouTube page.

Pioneer will be live-tweeting from TED and we invite you to join us in the conversation on Twitter, where you can provide your answer to this: In a world rich with actionable health data, how will our relationship with doctors change?  Use the #pioneerdata hashtag and spread the conversation online.

Finally, we’ll be blogging the sights, sounds and stories of TED this week, so check back frequently.

CBS Sunday Morning to Feature Common Good, Health Courts

Oct 16, 2009, 4:44 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo

This weekend, tune in to CBS Sunday Morning for its lead story on Common Good, which, together with researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, has been analyzing and testing the viability of a system of administrative health courts to more rationally handle medical injury claims.  The CBS piece will look broadly at legal fear in America, a key thread in Common Good Chair and Founder Philip Howard's new book, Life Without Lawyers.  Interviews touched on health courts and their potential to reduce errors, boost patient safety and improve the overall quality of care, in addition to producing a more functional and effective process for resolving medical liability disputes.  Click here to find out where and when to watch in your area.

Are questionable dosing practices fueling antibiotic resistance?

Oct 11, 2009, 11:34 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo

This post comes to us from Patricia Geli Rolfhamre over at Extending the Cure.  More in-depth conversation about antibiotic resistance and the future of our nation's supply of antibiotics is happening on the ETC blog.


Are there ways in which we can reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance by treating patients more strategically? The dosing and duration of antibiotic treatment have been shown to be critical determinants of the likelihood of curing an infection and of the emergence of resistance.   Adjusting these factors to a patient’s individual condition instead of treating every patient with the same antibiotic regimen may be an easy step toward fighting resistance.

Research reports from the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting in Boston earlier this week revealed that doctors who work in hospital emergency rooms rarely adjust antibiotic doses for obese patients. The consequences are an increased risk of treatment failure and resistance development. Yet it is unclear how much this will spur the growing resistance epidemic. Given the fact that more than a third of the US population is obese - this trend is worrying. But solving the obesity problem or adjusting the doses for obese patients is only a part of the answer. The other important parameter for successful treatment and for which a one-size-fits-all approach has generally been applied is the duration of treatment.

Antibiotic guidelines have historically been developed to maximize treatment efficacy and minimize toxicity – without the consideration of resistance development. This has led to the creation of duration guidelines that are unnecessarily long. One example is the treatment of otitis media, which results from a middle ear infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (by volume, the leading cause of antibiotic resistance). For this specific case, three days with antibiotic treatment has been shown to be no less effective than ten days. Despite this fact, we continue to recommend that patients complete the full ten day course of antibiotic treatment, thereby accelerating the rate with which resistance evolves and spreads.

Regardless of the fact that antibiotic drugs have been used for some 70 years to cure bacterial infections, knowledge on how to use these drugs is still incomplete. And with lack of knowledge, we tend to fit the same approach for treating all infections among all patients. With resistance growing, it is time to ask ourselves: how long can we wait before we change the way we use antibiotic drugs, and are we willing to risk the consequences?