Sunday, October 29, 2006

Variety post: evidence grading, drug marketing, abbreviations, IRBs

This week's list of interesting things...

- Biomed Central Medical Research Methodology: "A system for rating the stability and strength of medical evidence" - proposed framework for more "transparent" evidence grading

- Clinical Cases and Images: "Complete list of medical abbreviations and acronyms"

- retired docs thoughts: "Marketing strategies masquerading as Evidence Based Medicine" - discussion of commentary publised in last week's New England Journal of Medicine (PubMed record) analyzing the link between drug company funding of research and conclusions extrapolated for the resulting data (thanks, Rachel, for sending this link!)

- Corpus Callosum commentary on the same NEJM perspective piece: "Another wrinkle in the treatment guideline controversy" - considers "What happens if a corporation essentially buys an undue degree of influence in the formulation of treatment guidelines?"

- via DocuTicker, two interesting reports: "Does Health Information Matter for Modifying Consumption? A Field Experiment Measuring the Impact of Risk Information on Fish Consumption" and "Report: Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board"

- Inside Higher Ed also discusses IRBs: "Research Review Boards Faulted" - "AAUP says that IRB's are straying into areas where they are not needed, hindering professors' work."

- Orac of Respectful Insolence has a related discussion of IRBs: "Institutional review boards overreaching?"
Over the last decade or so, IRBs have made the requirements for doing any sort of clinical trial progressively more and more onerous, in some cases going far beyond what is required to guarantee human subjects protection. You may think this is a good thing, and it is--to a point. However, there comes a point when requirements pass beyond the point of ensuring patient safety and autonomy and into the realm of stifling research, or at least making it far more difficult than it already is. It is not clear to me that we have reached that point, but if things keep going the way they are going that point cannot be far off.

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New Pew report: Internet users don't check source of health information

A new Pew report released today, "Online Health Search 2006," outlines results of survey research indicating that surveyed Internet users report that they do not typically check the source or the date of last update for health-related information.

Eighty percent of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. Most internet users start at a general search engine when researching health and medical advice online. Just 15% of health seekers say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do so “most of the time.” Fully three-quarters of health seekers say they check the source and date “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never,” which translates to about 85 million Americans gathering health advice online without consistently examining the quality indicators of the information they find. Most health seekers are pleased about what they find online, but some are frustrated or confused.

The full report and the questionnaire employed by the survey (with data illustrating how the results have changed over the duration of the project) are also available online.

Related: the Reuters story about the report


MLA has posted a press release responding to the report.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Penalty for fradulent research: jail sentence?

From Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "An Unwelcome Truth" by Jeneen Interlandi - the story of the trial of Eric Poehlman for a "career" of fradulent scientific research:

He presented fraudulent data in lectures and in published papers, and he used this data to obtain millions of dollars in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health — a crime subject to as many as five years in federal prison. Poehlman’s admission of guilt came after more than five years during which he denied the charges against him, lied under oath and tried to discredit his accusers. By the time Poehlman came clean, his case had grown into one of the most expansive cases of scientific fraud in U.S. history.
The story discusses the case and how portions of the fraud were initially discovered by a student collaborator who was faced with the uneviable challenge of investigating discrepencies and eventually disclosing the extent of fradulent research activities in Poehlman's lab by a formal charge of scientific misconduct with his institution. It details the internal investigation and progression of the case to criminal prosecution by the US Department of Justice, with sentencing this past June:

"Federal sentencing guidelines called for five years in prison based on the amount of grant money Poehlman had obtained using fraudulent data. But no scientist had ever spent time in prison for fabricating data. (One did spend 60 days in a halfway house.)... The sentencing judge was William Sessions, the same judge to whom Poehlman denied all allegations of misconduct at the injunction hearings four years earlier. He told Poehlman to stand and receive his sentence: one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years of probation."
Commentary on the story:
- Orac of Respectful Insolence: "Jail for scientific misconduct?"

- Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles: "Falsify data, go to jail"

- the Office of Research Integrity (US DHHS) report on the initial case

- More via a Google Blog Search or Technorati

And a related post by RPM of evolgen: "Fraud is okay"


Monday, October 23, 2006

Health Q&A: Go Ask Alice

I have been browsing through the questions and answers on Go Ask Alice! for the last half hour and I'm loving this site -- produced by Columbia University Health Services, the service provides accessible, brief answers to health-related questions, in sort of a "Dear Abby" format.

It covers mental, emotion, and physical health - so many interesting questions - Some Q&A examples:

- Calcium - how much is enough?
- Pondering the pros and cons of tongue piercing
- Sick about going to counseling
- Healthy vs. unhealthy relationships

More information on the site:
- New to Go Ask Alice
- About Go Ask Alice
"Who answers the questions? Go Ask Alice! is supported by a team of Columbia University health educators, health care providers, and other health professionals, along with information and research specialists from health-related organizations worldwide."
- press kit

Found via LifeHacker.

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How pretty are jellyfish?

Comparing a "real" picture of a jellyfish to a colorized image - related to one my first posts, "Image editing in the medical literature," this post by Sandra Porter of Discovering Biology in a Digital World comments, "Unfortunately...myths and misleading images are now being propagated through science education," noting a recent case of editing for publication of a jellyfish image to add false color and impression of luminescence not present in the original graphic.

Great commentary re: the responsibility of the publisher and the author(s) to disclose the presence and nature of any image editing to clarify how an image has been manipulated.

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Personalized medicine and popular media coverage

Recent items about advances in establishing individualized strategies for diagnoses and interventions based on individual expression profiles etc:

- National Geographic News: "Personalized Medicine Promises Tailor-Made Diagnoses, Treatments," by Stefan Lovgren

Commenting on this study published in Nature Medicine by a group of Duke researchers, using gene chips to guide chemotherapeutic intervention against several cancer cell lines:

- BBC: "'Personalised' cancer drug test"
- Reuters Health: "Test helps guide cancer treatment, U.S. study shows

And James Hrynyshyn a blog posting about science coverage by the popular media (related (and providing some counterpoint) to items in this previous post - "In defence of science journalists."

More on science journalism by David Dobbs of Smooth Pebbles, considering the current lack of media attention directed toward avian flu - "A Hush About Bird Flu; Noise About Science Journalism"

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Another new search engine: SearchMash

SearchMash is a new search interface from Google (a little bit hidden, disclosed on the Privacy page). The Features page lists the current features of the engine:

- when you click a URL in the search results, you have a few options that are similar to the links below a search result entry in the original Google (open a cached copy, more from this site, results similar to this page)
- it automatically displays a few images for each search
- no ads
- you can drag and drop results to change the order
- instead of clicking to a new page to see more results, they open in the same window, adding below the previously viewed results (can either click "more web pages" or use your space bar)

I tried a few searches and it worked fine; didn't seem dramatically different from the same results in the original Google. I kind of like seeing a few image results but some have found it irritating and an abuse of bandwidth (e.g. the DaveN post linked below).

More description and commentary:
- Information Week: "Google launches experimental search engine "
- Search Engine Guide: "Google's SearchMash"
- Search Engine Watch: "Google's new SearchMash test site"
- Inside Google: "Google running SearchMash"
- DaveN: "Google's worst ever product"
- More via Google's BlogSearch and Technorati

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Variety post: better presentations, telemedicine in Michigan, open access and library lit

- Via LifeHacker: "12 tips for creating better presentations" from Microsoft - tips for improving the layout and content of PowerPoint presentations

- Wired News: "Paging Dr. Robot" - quick overview of the Michigan Stroke Network, launching next week and using telemedicine for neurologist consultations to hospitals without a neurology specialist physically present in the building.

- Via Open Access News: "Open access to the library literature" (Caveat Lector blog) -- advice for librarians who publish in identifying OA outlets for their work (note: our own Journal of the Medical Library Association is open access, via PubMed Central)

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

More than just the evidence

When we talk about clinical librarianship and the role of the librarian in selecting the "best" articles, in terms of both methodological rigor and relevance to a given clinical context, it's not uncommon that we also think about liability concerns - when the librarian takes a more involved and active role in synthesizing the medical literature for a clinical question, fulfilling an "evidence consultant" role for clinicians, what is his or her potential liability for this information selection process?

Some libraries have developed disclaimers that accompany their literature searches, bibliographies, etc, attempting to address this issue - perhaps most commonly characterizing the literature search process (selection decisions, database choices, related concepts of possible interest) and containing a phrase to the effect of "...more information available on request."

When I saw the headline for this Science Blog posting, I realized that it sums up my feelings about such liability concerns - "Evidence informs decisions but can't make them." Given our training as experts in searching the literature and identify key items related to a given topic/question, we provide information to support decision making -- the clinician takes the articles, studies, reports, reviews etc, incorporates that data with his or her clinical expertise and the wishes of the patient, and makes a decision about the best course of action for that patient. I don't feel that I provide answers to clinical questions, but tools to aid clinicians with arriving at their own answers for clinical challenges.

The Medical Library Association's Information Specialist in Context Task Force report and related materials address issues of liability and expert roles for librarians (full-text of the final report of the task force and the consulting team from Vanderbilt is also available to MLA members via the above page).

Your thoughts?

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Medicine and the popular media this week

Related to this previous post about the NPT series, "Remaking American Medicine", other popular media outlets are scrutinizing how healthcare is changing, and positive potential directions for the future of medicine in the US:

- USA Today: "In medicine, evidence can be confusing" - the challenges faced by clinicians and by patients in understanding how the evidence from clinical research should be applied to a given care decision (plus additional stories linked at the top of the USA Today page under the feature "Prescription for change: fixing American healthcare")

- Newsweek: "Fixing America's hospitals" - case studies from 10 healthcare organizations that have developed innovative strategies for reducing medical error and improving the quality of healthcare delivered to their patients (plus more stories, including an article by David Bates about EMRs and paperless medicine, via Newsweek's "Health for Life section).

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More on office ergonomics

As a follow-up to this post about designing "cool" workspaces - I found this Macworld article about workspace arrangement for healthy computing via Lifehacker. The article includes suggestions for modifying your chair, input devices (keyboard, etc), and monitor placement to improve the ergonomic design of your work area. One quick change suggested by the article that I just made this afternoon -
It’s less stressful for your eyes to focus on a distant visual target, so try to place your monitor 18 to 24 inches away, farther if there’s room. (If necessary, enlarge the on-screen text size to compensate.)

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New search engine: Ms.Dewey

Found this via Lifehacker - "Ms. Dewey: The saucy search-engine librarian"

Just tried a few general searches - doesn't seem suited for practical use (which I guess is pretty obvious once you get started with a search query) and it takes a long time to load but "Ms. Dewey's" on screen comments and gestures were amusing. Not sure if it's still in the testing/refinement stage - could definitely hear set noises (things falling, directions from the director, etc).

Others' commentary:
- Library Garden: "Ms. Dewey Search Engine"
- Geekologie: "Ms. Dewey is an angry search engine"
- Tech Digest: "Ms. Dewey: Search engine with a really annoying personality"
- Trend Hunter: "Human Search Engine - Ms Dewey is Better Looking Than Jeeves"

Ms. Dewey revealed to be part of a Microsoft "awareness campaign" ("Ms. Dewey Married to Microsoft" - WebProNews)
- More commentary via Library Cloud and (who comments "I think this is a pretty simplistic attempt at something ‘viral’ and so far it’s worked. But who did this, and why would they?")

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Variety post

A few things I've found interesting lately...

- badscience: "How to read a paper - for journalists"
- Cognitive Daily: "The trouble with science journalism" and "Do bigger monitors significantly increase your productivity?"
- Inside Higher Ed: "Highlighting problems with institutional review boards"
- Nobel Intent: "Scientists on science: tentativeness" - advice for dealing with uncertainty and changing models and theories in the sciences
- Seed Magazine: "Googling for a cure" - article about Connectivity Map, a new tool from MIT for identifying candidate interventions for more effective treatment of diseases, comparing it to the relationship-mapping strategies used by and
- Critical Care: "Evidence-based medicine: classifying the evidence from clinical trials – the need to consider other dimensions" (registration required)
- Women's Health News: "Campaign for real beauty before and after" - Rachel notes that the Dove campaign provides behind-the-scenes footage detailing "the work and artifice that goes into producing images of women for promotion and mass media"
- Medical News Today: "Medicare Proposes To Improve Care Through Learning From Prescription Drug Data, USA" - potential rich new data source for understanding drug interactions, therapeutic differences among subgroups of the elderly population, etc.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Remaking American medicine miniseries

I saw this when reading about the new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation EMR report - they are also funding a PBS miniseries, "Remaking American medicine: health care for the 21st century." The episodes started airing earlier this month and clips are available on the web site. The site also includes a webcast of a related symposium, "Champions of Change: A National Symposium on Improving Health Care," from the end of September. The symposium included leaders from the clinical and technical side as well as commentary by patient advocates.


New report about the status of electronic medical records

Found via DocuTicker: A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, "Health information technology in the United States: the information base for progress" (PDF) finds that electronic medical records are not a routine part of clinical practice for many physicians in the US.

The executive summary notes:
In the most comprehensive study to date that reliably measures the state of electronic health record (EHR) use by doctors and hospitals, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and George Washington University (GWU) estimate that one in four doctors (24.9 percent) use EHRs to improve how they deliver care to patients. However, less than one in 10 are using what experts define as a “fully operational” system that collects patient information, displays test results, allows providers to enter medical orders and prescriptions, and helps doctors make treatment decisions.
- the RWJF press release about the report

- an article reporting this study's results published in Health Affairs
- a post about the study on the new Health Affairs blog
- a Science Blog post by Ira Allen, "Privacy is forever; good health isn't" (including a link to a related Washington Post article)


New site: Helium

Article in yesterday's Search Engine Journal, " : About, Yahoo Answers & Wikipedia All Rolled Into One", posted by Loren Baker. It will be interesting to see how/if this one develops. Quoting from the description of the site's vision:

“Helium is different because it takes the chaos of user-contributed content and orders it with a trusted ranking system that dramatically improves the quality and accessibility of collective wisdom for the knowledge-seeker,” said Mark Ranalli, President and CEO of Helium. “At Helium, multiple quality responses to conversational subjects such as ‘Which Aruba resort is better?’, or ‘Tips for buying antique furniture’ are provided in rank order, making it simple to efficiently consider more than one perspective.”

The site: Helium: where knowledge rules

Will the peer review and aggregation that they describe be enough to prevent the wildly varying content quality in Yahoo! Answers that Rachel discusses?

Commentary on the site:
- ContentBlogger: "Peer review meets - Helium floats an old model in a new space"
- Symbolic Order: "Helium just doesn't feel right"
- Ray Deo: "Helium: compare other people's gas"
- A Little Class on the Internet: "Helium - not just something that makes your voice sound funny"
- more via a Google blog search

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The plural of anecdote is not data...

Glenn McGee penned a fairly strong critique of the role of the case report in the continuum of clinical research in The Scientist, "The Plural of Anecdote is Not Ambien" (registration required).

The article uses the example of case reports describing the use of Ambien to induce changes in consciousness among several patients in a persistent vegetative state.
"A paradox of biomedical research is that huge controlled trials, meta-analyses, and reviews of the literature are ubiquitous, but the number of "case reports" - and journals comprised entirely of incidental "findings" - is growing. The media has no idea how to deal with case reports....Investigators who jumpstart their programs with case reports are often in search of research support, as was Claus - who as a result of the case report is now funded. In this respect they, and the journals who publish nothing but these case reports, are like the television producers I worked with: They aim at using the power of stories to make the claims and reap the rewards that come from research, but without doing the research."

It's clear that the media picks up dramatic stories like the Ambien cases mentioned above, but I would argue that the media also misrepresents or over-hypes the implications of stronger types of clinical research as well (clinical trials, cohorts, etc.). While case reports are certainly limited in terms of generalizability and firm conclusions, they serve a useful function in generating and testing initial hypotheses.

A few articles that continue the role of the case report in scientific exploration:
- Carey JC. Significance of case reports in the advancement of medical scientific knowledge. Am J Med Genet A. 2006 Oct 1;140(19):2131-4. PubMed citation
- Vandenbroucke JP. In defense of case reports and case series. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Feb 20;134(4):330-4. PubMed citation
- Kagan AR, Burchette RJ, Iganej S. The case for case reports: avoiding statistical seduction. Am J Clin Oncol. 2006 Aug;29(4):325-7. PubMed citation


Funny fake news story

From the Onion's Radio News with Doyle Redland: Selfish scientists won't share findings (audio file)
Excerpt: "A group of scientists at the Harvard University Medical School announced today that they have made stunning advancements in heart disease prevention but added that they are keeping it all for themselves. Responding to intense public outcry, head researcher Dr. Carl Trotter says people in the medical community should have been a lot nicer to the scientists before they made the important discoveries."


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Data storage and retrieval in the "Internet cloud"

This month's issue of Wired includes an article "The Information Factories" - the piece is subcaptioned, "The desktop is dead. Welcome to the Internet cloud, where massive facilities across the globe will store all the data you'll ever use. George Gilder on the dawning of the petabyte age."

The article discusses the Google datacenters and, including storage capacity, power consumption, plans for growth, and the potential impact of future developments in computing power and data storage.

"According to Bell's law, every decade a new class of computer emerges from a hundredfold drop in the price of processing power. As we approach a billionth of a cent per byte of storage, and pennies per gigabit per second of bandwidth, what kind of machine labors to be born?

How will we feed it?

How will it be tamed?

And how soon will it, in its inevitable turn, become a dinosaur?

One characteristic of this new machine is clear. It arises from a world measured in the prefix giga, but its operating environment is the petascale. We're all petaphiles now, plugged into a world of petabytes, petaops, petaflops. Mouthing the prefix peta (signifying numbers of the magnitude 10 to the 15th power, a million billion) and the Latin verb petere (to search), we are doubly petacentric in our peregrinations through the hypertrophic network cloud."

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Marijuana and Alzheimer disease progression

On August 9th, there was a study published online in Molecular Pharmaceutics by researchers from the Scripps Institute in California; the same day, Scripps posted a press release about the study.

It's a basic science study that employed modeling techniques and biochemical assays, finding that THC, marijuana's active ingredient, interferes with an enzyme that has been implicated in the formation of plaques in Alzheimer disease. From the press release:

"THC inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which acts as a "molecular
chaperone" to accelerate the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer victims. Although experts disagree on whether the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in those areas critical to memory and cognition is a symptom or cause, it remains a significant hallmark of the disease. With its strong inhibitory abilities, the study said, THC "may provide an improved therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease" that would treat "both the symptoms and progression" of the disease."
This week, the study was picked up by UPI (Google news search results retrieves ~50 articles in different media outlets) -- it caught the attention of Rush Limbaugh, who covered it in his radio show on Friday.

I don't think there's ever been an occasion where I've agreed with his opinions, and I hesitate even to link to this but for the sake of discussion, here's his take on potential conflict of interest and the role of peer review for this research:

"But who's to say that there aren't a bunch of dopers among the research team who want the stuff legalized and are using the cover of their protected status as "scientists" to make this claim? Now, I know that their studies have to be peer reviewed and all that, but who's to say that the people doing the peer review aren't also a bunch of dopers who can sick and tired of being told that what they're doing is illegal. I think that's behind the medical marijuana business and so forth, the legalization of that. I'm not commenting on whether it should be legal or not. I'm just suggesting there's obviously a push on to get this stuff mainstreamed, and we know that there are a lot of people who use the stuff who want it mainstream because they want to be able to access it freely and regularly."
While it's a pretty broad and inflammatory statement about the research (and having looked at the original article, seems questionable whether a non-scientist could do more than read the press release and the media commentary, so Limbaugh's statements likely aren't based on the actual research but on the distilled commentary), it does point out one of the biases that can creep into research -- an individual's interests and beliefs can't help but influence the generation of research hypotheses; it is logical that people pick topics and projects for which they feel passion and suspect may have significant impact on problems facing humanity. However, we hope, as consumers of research, that the peer review process examines the research techniques employed to examine these hypotheses to make sure that the process and the data aren't influenced by personal biases, and that the authors' don't overstate the implications of their research.

One clue that the media is hyping this story beyond the intentions of the original researchers - a LiveScience story on the study includes a quote from the lead researcher on the project, Kim Janda, which seems to present the research implications fairly conservatively: "We're not advocating smoking dope, but if we can make analogues of THC, it could play a role in treating Alzheimer's...It would be nice to do more animal studies along these lines."

I definitely can't claim to be an expert (even particularly well-informed) about the medical marijuana debate, but these links give more info:
- the Institute of Medicine published a report, "Marijuana and medicine: assessing the science base," in 1999
- a podcast from the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah
- Congressional Research Service: "Medical marijuana: review and analysis of federal and state policies"

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Cool workspaces

From The Chief Happiness Officer, a list of 10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces, including workspaces from Pixar, Google, a VW plant, and the Red Bull London offices.

There must be lots of simple things that people do to make their workspaces more comfortable. I like having a couple of plants (watering them and pinching off dead leaves makes a nice excuse for a short break), pictures of friends and family, a comfortable chair, organizing my "clutter" into piles, headphones and good music for when I need to concentrate, a comfortable room temperature. I'm sure others have tips for things to do to make work a happier place, your thoughts?

Searched for a few good ideas but found it to be a more challenging search than I expected; lots of tips for home offices but didn't find quite as much for regular offices:

- Tips for designing a safe and comfortable workstation (University of British Columbia via UC Berkley)

- 10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy (LifeClever)

- 10 ways to relaxify your workspace (Steve Pavlina)

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Pending changes to PubMed AbstractPlus display

In the Technical Bulletin today, NLM announced that by March 2007, one library-specific full-text icon will be allowed at the top of the PubMed AbstractPlus display (where currently only the PubMed Central and publisher icons appear), rather than only at the end by the PMID - indicates that this is one of the main concerns voiced by librarians. The announcement notes:

"Libraries will be limited to one icon at the top and it must be no larger than 100 pixels high by 25 pixels wide. Other icons will continue to display near the PMID. We will supply more information closer to the time of the change and NCBI will send out an announcement on the Library LinkOut Announcements listserv that will provide details and instructions."
As I noted in a previous post, I really like the AbstractPlus feature, and the announcement also provides some data about how the display format is being used -- "Since the introduction of AbstractPlus, clicks on related links have increased 13%. Twenty-three percent of the time users view the AbstractPlus display, they click on one of the first five related articles links."

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Electronic communication between patients and clinicians

A few days ago, I commented on David's post about the use of email-type communications by physicians and patients - I had a very positive experience with a patient portal with clinician/patient messaging after a recent healthcare visit at Vanderbilt.

The patient portal at Vanderbilt, MyHealthAtVanderbilt, has been very well-received by patients and clinicians in the medical center. Rather than relying on email, this portal uses the electronic medical record system's secure messaging; when a patient has a new communication from the healthcare provider, they get a generic email to their regular email address saying that a new message is available in the portal, addressing some of the concerns about security and protecting patient confidentiality.

I'm definitely not an expert about the system, but a few related news stories from the Vanderbilt Reporter discuss more about the patient healthcare portal and how it has been received by doctors and patients:

- "My Health’ site’s traffic, capabilities growing fast"

"As physicians and staff in each clinic are introduced to My Health, Muse and Jirjis have found a pattern of initial reluctance and anxiety giving way to enthusiastic adherence after the site goes into use....[One physician comments] "When the Diabetes Center was preparing to join My Health, “The fear was that, once patients can send messages to their doctor and put notes into their chart, the physician's time will no longer be protected. I was concerned about that myself, but I concluded that the benefits to patients would be worth it. As it turns out, My Health has improved my practice while also helping me compartmentalize my time."
- "New Web tool unites patients, clinical teams"
"These days everything from the bank to the library to the IRS has a Web-based interface to improve customer access. 'Why not your doctor's office?' asks Jim N. Jirjis, M.D., assistant chief medical officer and director of the Adult Primary Care Center. "

- "Some lab results now available online"

And this PowerPoint presentation also describes the project in more detail, complete with screenshots.

And a related story about a Harris Interactive and Wall Street Journal study of patient preferences - "Patients want doctors to embrace the Internet"


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

David Suzuki - "Take my research, please"

A very tangential connection to an earlier post about short vs full RSS feeds, prompted in part by Rachel's comment on the earlier post, BoingBoing discusses politicians' recent co-opting of environmental research conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation, with apparent lack of adequate attribution or acknowledgment of the source.

David Suzuki comments on the incident in a recent article, "Take my research, please" --
"Allow me to clear something up right now. To all politicians looking for ways to reduce our footprint on nature – or, to use politician-speak, create an “environmental platform”: Knock yourselves out. Feel free to steal, pilfer, borrow, rent, filch or otherwise take any research my foundation does and put it to good use.

This may seem obvious to some, but the whole point of conducting and publishing this research is to get people to actually use it. As public education, it helps raise awareness of environmental problems. But more important, it provides solutions to those problems. And most of those solutions are best implemented by our political and business leaders, rather than by individuals."
I saw David Suzuki lecture several years ago at a Medical Library Association annual meeting and he's a fantastic and inspiring speaker about environmental issues.

A few clips:
- featured on this episode of Listen Up with Lorna Dueck #278 - Environmental Action
- the David Suzuki Nature Challenge
- World Wildlife Fund Australia interview with Dr. Suzuki
- and more available via a quick youtube search

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lectures in medicine, biology, the social sciences

I've been listening to a few lectures lately, selecting different sources to try to broaden my exposure to topics in medicine, the social sciences etc. A few sources that I've found particularly useful so far:

- Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Discovery Lecture Series, which so far has included Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner discussing "The Next 100 Years of Biology" and Nancy Andreasen (Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry at The University of Iowa; Institute of Medicine member; Editor in Chief, The American Journal of Psychiatry) discussing "The Creative Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius."

- Working my way through lectures from the TEDTalks series: "Each year, TED hosts some of the world's most fascinating people: Trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. The talks they deliver have had had such a great impact, we thought they deserved a wider audience." So far I've made it through (and really enjoyed) the talks from Barry Schwartz and Al Gore. (found via The World's Fair)

- NIH lectures (lists most recent 50 events) - this week I'm listening to "God, Darwin & Design: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul" presented by Kenneth R. Miller, Ph.D., Brown University (media file requires Real Player or Real Alternative)

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Risk estimates in clinical research

Darshak Sanghavi of Slate has written a great comparison and contrast of relative risk, absolute risk, and number-needed-to-treat, and how the various estimates, though reflecting the same primary results, may lead to wildly differing perceptions of how "good" a certain treatment is--"Treat Me?The crucial health stat you've never heard of"

Bandolier also has a number of examples to help illustrate the utility of NNT estimates.

Thanks to Rachel for sending this article!

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Open access and peer review

A few periodicals with fairly different takes on a recent Associated Press story about open access, PLoS and PLoS One, and Nature's new open review experiment --

Wired News: Web journals take on peer review

Boston Herald: Online journals threaten traditional scientific peer-review system

Washington Times: Internet journals offer researchers quick publishing

Looking at the results of a Google News search seems to indicate that most of the media titles that have picked up this story have focused on the confrontation aspect.

Chris Surridge of PLoS One discusses the AP article on the PLoS One blog.

And thanks to Mark for pointing out these two links:
Peter Suber of Open Access News caught this too.

Seed went with a more subtle take on the confrontation aspect: "Free, For All: How will the open access movement affect global science?

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