Archive for: September 2011

Extending the Cure Launches Interactive Map Featuring Latest Regional and Global Trends in Antibiotic Resistance

Sep 29, 2011, 10:30 AM

The latest iteration of ResistanceMap, an interactive web-based tool that tracks drug resistance in North America and Europe, was launched recently by Extending the Cure, a Pioneer-supported research project that explores policy solutions to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. (ETC director Ramanan Laxminarayan sums up the initiative’s approach wonderfully in a recent article in The Atlantic .)

 The United States lags behind many Western European nations in controlling the spread of certain drug-resistant microbes or “superbugs,” according to ResistanceMap. The online tool was recently updated to allow users to make side-by-side comparisons of resistance data.

 The maps show that despite significant gains in limiting the spread of hospital acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the United States still has one of the highest MRSA rates in the Northern Hemisphere—putting it far behind other developed European countries. Nearly 52 percent of reported Staph samples in the United States are resistant to treatment with methicillin, penicillin and closely related antibiotics, compared to just 1 percent in Sweden.

 Policymakers, researchers and healthcare workers can use maps like these to identify regions in the country or the world that might need greater coordination and tighter infection control. The information in the maps will also be useful in finding models of best practice that could be used to curtail the spread of an emerging superbug, an increasingly urgent need in a world where resistant bacteria can easily and quickly travel from one part of the globe to another.

Several high-profile media outletscovered the launch, including: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Scientific American.

Check out the map and let us know what you think – what are some trends that jump out at you and how can we re-imagine the way we deal with the issue of antibiotic resistance?

Simple Measure Could Help Address Public Health Threat

Sep 21, 2011, 12:25 PM

Antibiotic prescriptions tend to spike during flu season, even though influenza is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics, according to a new study from Extending the Cure, a Pioneer-supported project that examines policy solutions to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. In the study, authors Phil Polgreen and Ramanan Laxminarayan offer a simple solution to the problem: Get your flu shot this year.

Laxminarayan describes the study findings and calls on health care administrators to get their hospital workers immunized in a Modern Healthcare op-ed, co-authored with U.S. Congressman Michael C. Burgess, and is joined by experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in urging consumers to get their flu shot in another guest commentary in the Health Care blog.

Let us know what you think – can something as simple as getting a flu shot help curtail the misuse of antibiotics? Are there other counterintuitive solutions to this problem we haven’t thought of yet?  

Time to Bring Designers to the Table: Thought's From Mayo's Transform Symposium

Sep 14, 2011, 2:52 AM, Posted by Al Shar

I'm just back from an exciting Mayo's Transform  Symposium. Before saying anything about the conference, I need to mention that being a pedestrian in Rochester, MN may present a significant health danger. I'll have to remember that cars don't stop on the East Coast just because someone is ready to cross a street.

We brought some guests to the meeting both to excite and engage them in helping move our support of Project ECHO forward. I'll let others write about that aspect of the meeting.

Regarding the meeting. I didn't realize that the theme was one about design innovation more than health or healthcare. At first this was off-putting: I wanted to learn about innovation that was going to help change health, not health packaging. I was wrong. I thought that figuring out how to solve a problem was the hard part. Implementing the solution would more or less follow. That's naive. Understanding the way people and the environment react to how solutions are packaged and presented is critical in their acceptance and ultimate success.

This is a good thing and bringing skilled designers to the table is important. We know that understanding where and how a person lives is important in determining what interventions will work but it's equally important to frame them in ways that are consonant with what they think and feel. Seeing the effect of a pediatric MRI designed to look like a pirate ship ride on a child's acceptance of the study or even just a simple reframing of an intervention in a context that resonates makes a world of difference.

It's sad that a collaboration between design and medical professional, with active consumer engagement, is not more common. Designing a solution to the wrong intervention and poorly implementing the right one are wasteful at best. But when things come together well, it can be a beautiful thing.

Blue Button: Driving a Patient-Centered Revolution in Health Care

Sep 13, 2011, 7:47 AM, Posted by Steve Downs

Editor's note: This post originally appeared 9/13/2011 at the Huffington Post.

A lot can happen in a year.

Last October, I wrote about a promising new offering for people looking to take control of their own health and health care decisions. Known as "blue button," this simple (but rather revolutionary) technology offers individuals the ability to download their own health information with just the click of a mouse. They can then use and share this information however they may choose -- with doctors, care providers, or even third-party applications designed to help them track and make sense of their own personal data.

Born out of a collaborative working group convened by the Markle Foundation, the blue button was beta-tested and then implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The immediate demand from their patients and beneficiaries was inspiring.

Recognizing the disruptive potential of the blue button idea, we at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation took an interest in it at an early stage of its growth. One of our aims is to help individuals understand, identify and receive high quality care. As such, exploring and supporting the development of technologies that enable people to make informed decisions is one way we hope to realize our vision of placing patients at the center of their care. Health data download capabilities modeled after the blue button approach can really move the ball forward in that regard. People can review their health records or claims information, educate themselves about conditions, procedures, medications, or test results found in their records, and share their information with family, friends and their health care providers. They can also point out errors they find and make sure that they are corrected.

I concluded my last post on the blue button idea by observing that the federal government had taken a strong step forward to give people access to their own health information, and that it was time for more in the private sector to do the same.

Not even a year later, I'm thrilled to look back and see that progress is being made -- in terms of both demand and implementation. Well over 400,000 veterans, members of the military, and Medicare beneficiaries have downloaded their data using the Department of Veterans Affairs', the Department of Defense's, and CMS' Blue Button, showing just how desired this functionality is by individuals. Equally inspiring is how much the private sector has taken up the challenge to make the health data they hold available to their patients and beneficiaries. Aetna, United Health Care, Walgreens and PatientsLikeMe are just a few of the major care providers, insurers and patient groups that have either implemented or committed to offering their consumers a blue button download capability.

Broader use of the blue button approach also offers opportunity to mobile app and software developers working in the burgeoning consumer e-health field. As the blue button download capability becomes more widespread, we expect to see more and more apps designed to take the data individuals can download and turn it into useful information and valuable tools used to manage one's health like reminders to get preventive services or refill a prescription, or a list of the lowest price outlets to order medications. To encourage these innovations, several organizations (including RWJF) have sponsored "developer challenges," and we expect more to be announced.

It's clear that we're in the middle of a health care quality revolution. But to improve outcomes on a broad scale, we need to empower individuals to become active participants in their care. Download capabilities like blue button can help do that, which is why we at RWJF are continuing to encourage their spread. Today, I am excited to announce the launch of, a web site that is a one-stop-shop for anyone (individuals, providers, insurers, health care organizations, patient groups, mobile app/software developers) who is interested in finding out how they can join the revolution.

I encourage you to help us harness the early momentum blue button has made and turn it into a full-fledged movement. Spread the word. Or better yet, visit the site and commit to transforming health care as we know it. 

New Case Studies in Innosight Institute's Disruptive Innovations in Health Series

Sep 6, 2011, 1:36 AM

 Over the past several months the Innosight Institute, a think tank that applies Clayton Christensen’s theories of disruptive innovation to the social sector, has been exploring the critical factors necessary for facilitating disruptive innovation in health care in integrated delivery systems to achieve increased quality, reduced cost, and access improvements. The work, which is funded by the Pioneer Portfolio, has already produced five case studies, including recent additions that look at processes at Grand Valley Health Plan, Group Health Cooperative, and Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

To learn how Grand Valley provides a high level of access at a low cost of care, how Group Health is employing a successful Medical Home program and how scarcity became “the mother of invention” atPresbyterian Healthcare Services pleasecheck out the full case studies here.