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Archive for September, 2012

Health Information Exchange (HIE) and Disaster Preparedness

In November, 2010, the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) convened the Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration (SERCH) project on Health Information Exchange in Disaster Preparedness and Response. The consortium included representatives from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, with the goal of developing a strategic plan for sharing health information data among the Southeast and Gulf States during and following a declared natural disaster. The consortium members carefully assessed the challenges of accessing medical records and coordinating health care information for patient populations displaced due to a disaster. To date, there has been limited research on how HIE could be leveraged to provide timely access to clinical information in response to a disaster. The best way to ensure that health information can be accessed during an emergency is to ensure that it can be accessed during routine care. As connectivity through HIE expands, opportunities to link exchange efforts with emergency preparedness and response to provide health information to providers and patients in response to a disaster will increase.

The final report from the project, released in July, 2012, includes an actionable plan for incorporating health information exchange into disaster preparedness efforts. The phased approached suggested by SERCH supports immediate progress in the absence of routine, widespread health information exchange. It also addresses key legal, technical, and governance issues and offers a list of steps that states can take to align their health information exchange planning activities with ongoing emergency preparedness activities. The report includes five recommendations, which offer a path forward for states wishing to integrate disaster planning and health information exchange efforts, to help ensure that when a disaster strikes, patients and providers will have better access to information, and providers will be better able to provide appropriate care.

Data Dashboards: A Visual Evaluation Tool

Data dashboards provide a mechanism to use visualization, rather than words, to get a quick overview of progress made towards programmatic goals, and to engage stakeholders in the evaluation process. To use data dashboards effectively, it is important to define the user group(s) involved and to select recognizable metrics from trusted sources. There are a variety of resources available to assist with producing dashboards for web sites, blogs, etc., including Juice Analytics, Tableau Software, and Google Analytics. After registering with Juice Analytics, one resource to consider is a white paper listed in the “Visualization Resources” category, called A Guide to Creating Dashboards People Love to Use. Once established, data dashboards can monitor the progress of a program, communicate progress to stakeholders, and provide early signs of problems that may be arising.

To get an idea of a final product, a good example to view is the Health IT Dashboard showing the implementation of the Regional Extension Center (REC) Cooperative Agreement Program, coordinated by the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). The REC program is funded to provide technical assistance for EHR implementation to 100,000 primary care providers, through 62 nationwide sites. The dashboard charts the enrollment of primary care providers in this program, and monitors their efforts to become meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs). Dashboards could be a colorful, visual way for you to show what you do to benefit the overall institution!

National Library of Medicine ALTBIB Portal Gets Refreshed!

NLM’s ALTBIB portal has been updated. ALTBIB provides access to PubMed/MEDLINE citations relevant to alternatives to the use of live vertebrates in biomedical research and testing. Many of the citations provide access to free full text of the article. The site’s topics and subtopics are aligned with current approaches. For example, information is provided on in silico, in vitro, and improved (refined) animal testing methods. Strategies which incorporate validated methods and other approaches are also covered.

ALTBIB also provides access to animal alternatives news sources, such as the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). The portal has an extensive collection of links to key organizations providing information on alternatives to animal testing. ALTBIB provides access to ICCVAM’s “International Acceptance of Alternative Methods, 1998-2012” and “U.S. and International Milestones in Alternative Test Method Development and Evaluations.”

In addition to the topic area PubMed searches, the ALTBIB portal includes a searchable bibliographic collection on alternatives to animal testing. This collection provides citations from published articles, books, book chapters, and technical reports published from 1980 to 2000. The bibliography features citations concerning methods, tests, assays, and procedures that may prove useful in establishing alternatives to the use of intact vertebrates. The ALTBIB bibliographic collection has not been updated since 2001, when the preformulated searches of PubMed were substituted for collecting a formal bibliography.

The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Provides Data Describing the Function of the Human Genome

The ENCODE Project was planned as a follow-up to the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project sequenced the DNA that makes up the human genome; the ENCODE Project seeks to interpret this sequence. Coinciding with the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) organized the launching of the ENCODE Project, as a worldwide effort involving more than 30 research groups and 400 scientists. The approximately 20,000 genes that provide instructions for making proteins account for only about 1% of the human genome. Researchers embarked on the ENCODE Project to figure out the purpose of the remaining 99% of the genome. Scientists discovered that more than 80 percent of this non-gene component of the genome, which was once considered “junk DNA,” actually has a role in regulating the activity of particular genes (gene expression).

Researchers think that changes in the regulation of gene activity may disrupt protein production and cell processes and result in disease. A goal of the ENCODE Project is to link variations in the expression of certain genes to the development of disease. The ENCODE Project has given researchers insight into how the human genome functions. As researchers learn more about the regulation of gene activity and how genes are expressed, the scientific community will be able to better understand how the entire genome can affect human health.

NHGRI recently announced updated results of the ENCODE project in a press release. Further detailed information about the findings are available from the ENCODE project portal. Published research findings are also available through the new web site, Nature Encode Explorer, which provides public access to scientific information collected from the ENCODE Project.

NLM Library Operations Division Announces Two Appointments!

National Library of Medicine Acting Associate Director for Library Operations, Joyce Backus, has announced the appointment of Loren Frant to serve as deputy chief of the Public Services Division (PSD), and Kenneth Koyle to serve as deputy chief of the History of Medicine Division (HMD). Ms. Frant came to NLM as an Associate Fellow in 2004. Following her Associate year, she accepted a position in PSD’s Reference and Web Services Section as a systems librarian, where she led a team of librarians delivering Web site redesigns and database improvements. Ms. Frant served as the technical lead for MedlinePlus, and was then appointed head of the Health Information Products Unit (HIPU), a position she held until her selection as deputy chief. As the head of the HIPU Unit, Ms. Frant led all MedlinePlus strategic decisions and directed the operations for a suite of important products and services, including MedlinePlus, MedlinePlus en español, MedlinePlus Web services, and she was key to the successful launch of MedlinePlus Connect in November 2010.

Mr. Koyle is a retired Army officer, with more than 25 years of service. Since 2010, he has served as deputy chief of the US Army Medical Department’s Center of History and Heritage (AMEDD) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he has been the executive officer of the Center, and the sole active duty historian in the Army Medical Department, responsible with the chief of the Center for supervision of an 18-person staff of history, archives, and museum personnel, and administration of a $2.1 million annual budget, as well as historical research in support of AMEDD and the Office of the Surgeon General. Prior to his tenure at AMEDD, Mr. Koyle was a medical history fellow at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where he received his master’s degree in history. He holds a second master’s degree in adult education from Penn State University.

HHS Announces New Disease-Tracking Twitter Application, MappyHealth!

On September 14, 2012, the publication Government Health IT reported that HHS officials announced the release of MappyHealth, a new Web-based application tool available to public health officials. MappyHealth was the winning entry in a developers’ challenge competition, “Now Trending: #Health in My Community.” The challenge was sponsored by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Health officials can use data gained through the app to complement other health surveillance systems, to identify emerging health issues and potential public health emergencies in a community.

Currently, the top diseases being tracked by MappyHealth are the common cold, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), mosquito borne disease, pertussis, tuberculosis, influenza and gastroenteritis. The top five locations for these disease-tracking tweets are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Orlando, Chicago and Los Angeles. The availability of MappyHealth provides a mechanism for local public health departments to effectively utilize social media to monitor disease trends as they occur in real time.

NLM’s Facebook Page: A Team Effort!

NLM’s Facebook page was launched on February 16, 2010, with the initial goal of presenting lively, online health posts. The first listing was about a new exhibition opening: Within These Walls: Contraband Hospital and the African Americans Who Served There. By March 20, the NLM Facebook page had 1,000 followers. Two years later, there were 10,000. Today, NLM’s Facebook page has over 13,000 “likes” and grows by an average of about 14 new likes per day!

NLM’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL) manages the NLM Facebook page, as well as NLM’s general-interest Twitter feed. Every week a team of four people, comprising the Facebook editorial group, gather for a thirty-minute discussion, that generates Facebook postings for the week. An example of potential content is a celebrity’s recent disease diagnosis. They also review a master list of annual health observances and recognition dates. The group chooses from a dozen or more listings for each month’s postings. The team then updates and responds to comments on NLM’s Facebook page. They have learned that with social media, the only constant is change, and they are constantly scanning the horizon for new content ideas!

IOM Releases New Report Regarding Progress Made in Reducing Health Disparities

At the turn of the 21st century, several important reports and events designed to raise awareness of health disparities and describing initial efforts to reduce health disparities took place. The Surgeon General’s office released several reports that showed dramatic disparities in areas such as tobacco use and access to mental health services by race and ethnicity. Then legislation was enacted focusing on reducing health disparities, and creating the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, as part of NIH. In 2001, the Institue of Medicine released its landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, highlighting the importance of a focus on health care quality rather than a focus on access and cost issues.

Building upon these reports and events, the IOM held a workshop on April 8, 2010, to discuss progress made towards addressing health disparities, and focusing on the success of various federal initiatives to reduce health disparities. Today marks the release of the following document summarizing the workshop, How Far Have We Come in Reducing Health Disparities?: Progress Since 2000 – Workshop Summary.

National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

Cover image of National Strategy for Suicide Prevention report On September 10, 2012, the Action Alliance, along with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, released the revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP). The revised strategy emphasizes the role every American can play in protecting their friends, family members, and colleagues from suicide. It also provides guidance for schools, businesses, health systems, clinicians, and many other sectors that takes into account nearly a decade of research and other advancements in the field since the last strategy was published.

The NSSP features 13 goals and 60 objectives, with the themes that suicide prevention should:

  • Foster positive public dialogue; counter shame, prejudice, and silence; and build public support for suicide prevention;
  • Address the needs of vulnerable groups, be tailored to the cultural and situational contexts in which they are offered, and seek to eliminate disparities;
  • Be coordinated and integrated with existing efforts addressing health and behavioral health, and ensure continuity of care;
  • Promote changes in systems, policies, and environments that will support and facilitate the prevention of suicide and related problems;
  • Bring together public health and behavioral health;
  • Promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means among individuals with identified suicide risks;
  • Apply the most up-to-date knowledge base for suicide prevention.

The overview, full report, fact sheet, and public service announcement are available on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention website.

September 2012 NIH News in Health Now Available!

Illustration of worried parents watching a young child reading a book.The September 2012 issue of NIH News in Health is now available online! NIH News in Health is a monthly newsletter providing practical health information from NIH’s medical experts and is based on research conducted either by NIH’s own scientists or by universities and medical schools around the country. This issue features:

  • See, Hear, Speak: Are Kids’ Senses Ready for School?
  • Safe Driving for Distracted Teens: Steering in the Right Direction
  • Household Mold Linked to Asthma in Children
  • Video Looks at the Science of Yoga
  • Featured Website: 52 Weeks for Women’s Health

NIH News in Health is available in HTML, PDF, and print formats.