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Monday, February 13, 2006

Health informatics 2.0?

Readers of this blog will know that we have discussed Web 2.0 (or WWW2.0) tools at intervals - indeed, blogging seems to be one of the quintessential elements of Web 2.0.

This got me thinking - what are the implications for health informatics (or nursing informatics, or [bio-]medical informatics - take your pick of term or speciality)? Many Web 2.0 tools can be explored for their use by health informaticians; but what about customising them for health informatics uses? - or even building health informatics applications using Web 2.0 tools and principles?

Among the key elements of Web2.0 are collaboration, building communities, fostering interactions, sharing of resources, etc. - tools such as blogs, RSS feeds, swickis, folksonomy applications. What might be their implications for developing health informatics? Could they put some of the sacred cows out to grass? For example, what are the implications for the whole debate and set of work on terminologies if people can create their own keywords and categorisations? What are the implications for the silo approach to health records if people can build their own and share links and information? Do we have the opportunity to create 'Health informatics 2.0'?

In addition to exploring the use of existing Web 2.0 tools, I and interested colleagues will be exploring these and other issues. Our thoughts will be added at intervals here, through and through various conference presentations and discussion papers. We invite anyone interested to share in the debate and provide their own perspectives.

Peter Murray

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  • Peter, I've been excited about web2.0 for more than a year now. As I was finishing undergrad last year, I was beginning to think about how web2.0 technologies could fit into health informatics to create, as you say, health informatics 2.0 (which I'll shorten to "hi2.0"). When I started graduate school at Vanderbilt in July, I continued to delve deeper into the idea of hi2.0. The question going through my mind was "What aspects of the services I use every, Flickr, Blogger--can be worked in to the medical informatics domain?" I thought and I thought and I thought some more. My enthusiasm continued to build.

    When autumn came I introduced the concepts to a couple faculty members in my department. Their reactions were pretty much the same: "Wow, that's cool...but what does it have to do with informatics?" The answer wasn't abundantly clear to me either, but the social connectivity of web2.0 was something I wanted to fit into my graduate studies somehow.

    The semester rolled on and I continued to try to identify a research project for my MS and PhD that would be hi2.0-centric. After a while I recognized that the faculty members didn't fully understand web2.0, and that the faculty members' strengths were in traditional medical informatics applications, not web2.0. As a graduate student, I'm in a position to learn from domain experts, and their expertise is in health informatics-focused areas (and acronyms) like CPOE, DSS, and EMR. Cutesy O'Reilly-polished terms like web2.0 describe a set of technologies I think are really cool and can change health informatics completely, but I can't study hi2.0 until I understand "hi1.0"!

    From the perspective of a first-year graduate student, hi2.0 is really, really interesting. But I don't think it's amenable to study for the type of research I need to do right now. Although I haven't completely identified my research focus, I plan on studying a traditional informatics area. There's so much I can learn from the experts around me. However, I would be delighted to discover a path for hi2.0 research in the course of studying hi1.0. I think web2.0 will emerge in the medical informatics domain in response to users' needs just as so many other popular (and now vital) technologies have. The opportunities will surface for hi2.0 to take off as the general public, and thus the majority of clinician users, comes to recognize web2.0's benefits and wishes to see similar functionality added to the primary systems in their lives.

    By Tom Campion, at 6:55 AM  

  • Tom,

    You are a member of the next generation of clinicians that I wrote about in a post on my own blog, in which I expressed frustration at getting health system and med school institutional leadership to understand the critical differences between their generations (entering grad school pre-1990, all the way back to those from the late '50's) and your generation and those yet to come. I wrote

    "Perhaps the most important change agent will be the emergence by 2010 of a generation of clinicians who have grown up taking for granted that IT is a communications and knowledge management medium rather than a data processing tool. This generation will have no understanding of and little tolerance for our ongoing struggles with the mundane data processing and integration issues that so dominate our generation's view of IT (not to mention our budgets and life energies)."

    I hope you understand what an incredibly huge paradigm shift has to occur in the mind of a fifty-year-old physician to even begin to grasp the possibilities. No generation has ever before faced such a quantum leap. With Moore's Law, Metcalfe's Law, and the inexorable evolutionary course of innovation, I suspect such quantum leaps will be a fact of life for the generations to come. A few of us old codgers are beginning to "get it" - I hope I am one, but then I am a techie, not a physician or life scientist. there is so much to learn and it changes so fast, and worst of all we digest things much slower than does your generation.

    As a relatively new blogger just discovering what a wealth of information and viewpoints is out there in the Blogosphere, I am greatly encouraged by finding posts like Pepter's, yours, and others in Rod's blog. hi2.0 will arrive, it's only a question of when, and of who are the change agents who bring it about.

    By Hunscher, at 5:49 PM  

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