Personal health records (PHRs) are not new to health care, as the idea was introduced originally in the late 1970s. But their development has gained momentum with the escalating use of electronic health records (EHRs) and the recent promise of federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Progress toward electronic PHRs has been hindered by the difficulty in aggregating data from a wide range of unconnected "host" technologies, and presenting that information to patients and physicians in such a way as to make the information understandable and genuinely usable.
Heinz College and its partners have overcome this obstacle with a flexible, service-oriented architecture (SOA) platform that shares and organizes patient information in a meaningful way, regardless of the system or format in which the data were originally stored.
"We are delighted to collaborate with UPMC on this innovative project, which is specifically intended to empower patients," notes Ramayya Krishnan, Ph.D., dean of Heinz College. "Heinz College's iLab leverages faculty expertise in health care and information technology and the skills and capabilities of MISM students to foster such collaboration between academia and industry partners."
What distinguishes the project's integration with Google Health — expected to be launched for patients this spring — is the fact that the data will be aggregated from throughout UPMC inpatient and ambulatory settings and the sharing ultimately will be bi-directional, meaning that health care providers can share information securely with patients through the PHR and vice versa. The data will be part of the electronic medical record, readily accessible to clinicians and usable in decision support tools.
Heinz College was charged with execution of the demonstration project in fall 2009. Six candidates in the Master in Information Systems Management (MISM) program worked under the direction of faculty advisor Rema Padman, Ph.D., to design, implement and test the concept. Within six weeks, they were able to move discrete patient data through the dbMotion platform to populate the Google Health PHR and, shortly after, to pass information back into the UPMC system.
"This project helped me and my teammates leverage our combined skill set and come a step closer to achieving our career goals of becoming business technologists," said Heinz College MISM student Pooja Bandu, project director for the CMU portion of the initiative.
"This project gave us a chance to interact with multiple stakeholders such as UPMC, dbMotion and Google."
Bandu's team members were Aidar Kultayev, Immanuel Alam, Leena Arora, Sajit Mathew Kunnumkal and Shenghu Yang.
"Though we were inexperienced in the health care domain and were working on new and lesser documented technologies, we were able to overcome this limitation by interacting with industry experts," Bandu said.