Publications

2010
Durant KT, McCray AT, Safran C. Social network analysis of an online melanoma discussion group. AMIA Jt Summits Transl Sci Proc 2010;2010:6-10.Abstract
We have developed tools to explore social networks that share information in medical forums to better understand the unmet informational needs of patients and family members facing cancer treatments. We define metrics that demonstrate members discussing interleukin-2 receive a stronger response from the melanoma discussion group than a typical topic. The interleukin-2 network has a different topology than the melanoma network, has a higher density, and its members are more likely to have a higher intimacy level with another member and a lower inquisitiveness level than a typical melanoma user. Members are more likely to join the interleukin-2 network to answer a question than in the melanoma network (probability =.2 ±.05 p-value=.001). Within the melanoma network 20% of the questions posed to the community do not get an answer. In the interleukin-2 network, 1.3% of the questions (one question) do not get a response.
2009
Berkman M, Ufberg J, Nathanson LA, Shapiro NI. Anion gap as a screening tool for elevated lactate in patients with an increased risk of developing sepsis in the Emergency Department. J Emerg Med 2009;36(4):391-4.Abstract
OBJECTIVES: Serum lactate levels are a useful tool in monitoring critically ill patients, especially those who are septic. However, lactate levels are often not routinely drawn or rapidly available in some institutions. The objective of this study was to determine if a readily available anion gap (AG) could be used as a surrogate marker for abnormal lactate level in Emergency Department (ED) patients at risk for sepsis. METHODS: Prospective, observational cohort study of consecutive ED patients seen at an urban university tertiary care referral center with 46,000 annual ED visits. ED patients aged 18 years or older presenting with clinically suspected infection were eligible for enrollment if a serum chemistry and lactate levels were drawn during the ED visit. During the 9-month study period, 1419 patients were enrolled. The initial basic chemistry panels, calculated AG, and lactate levels drawn in the ED were collected. We defined, a priori, an AG > 12 and a lactate > 4 mmol/L to be abnormal. Analysis was performed with Student's t-test, operating characteristics with 95% confidence intervals, and logistic regression. RESULTS: The mean AG was 11.8 (SD 3.6) and the mean lactate was 2.1 (SD 1.3). For an AG > 12, the mean lactate was 2.9 (SD 1.7), compared with 1.8 (SD 0.8) for an AG < 12. The sensitivity of an elevated AG (> 12) in predicting elevated lactate levels (> 4 mmol/L) was 80% (72-87%) and the specificity was 69% (66-71%). Patients with a gap > 12 had a 7.3-fold (4.6-11.4) increased risk of having a lactate > 4 mmol/L. The area under the curve was 0.84. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that an elevated AG obtained in the ED is a moderately sensitive and specific means to detect elevated lactate levels in ED patients at risk for sepsis. This information may be somewhat helpful to Emergency Physicians to risk-stratify their patients to provide more aggressive early resuscitation.
Gangavati AS, Kiely DK, Kulchycki LK, Wolfe RE, Mottley LJ, Kelly SP, Nathanson LA, Abrams AP, Lipsitz LA. Prevalence and characteristics of traumatic intracranial hemorrhage in elderly fallers presenting to the emergency department without focal findings. J Am Geriatr Soc 2009;57(8):1470-4.Abstract
OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and associated characteristics of traumatic intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in elderly fallers presenting to the emergency department (ED) without focal findings. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: University-affiliated teaching hospital ED. PARTICIPANTS: Patients aged 65 and older presenting with a fall to the ED and undergoing a head computed tomography (CT) scan. MEASUREMENTS: Electronic medical records and CT scans of 404 consecutive patients were reviewed. Characteristics of patients with and without ICH were compared using unadjusted analyses. Patients taking warfarin, aspirin, or clopidogrel alone or in combination were compared with those not taking these medications. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to determine variables independently associated with ICH. RESULTS: Forty-seven of 404 elderly fallers (11.6%) without focal findings had an ICH. Unadjusted analyses in these pilot data showed that warfarin was not significantly associated with ICH. Multivariate analyses indicated that elderly people living in at home were more likely to have ICH than those living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities (odds ratio (OR)=3.2, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.30-8.13) and that those with head trauma were more likely to have ICH than those without (OR=3.9, 95% CI=1.25-7.80). Aspirin was found to be protective (OR=0.49, 95% CI=0.24-0.98). CONCLUSION: ICH is common in elderly fallers presenting to the ED without focal findings. Anticoagulation alone did not appear to increase the risk of ICH, and aspirin was found to be protective, but prospective studies are needed to better assess this relationship.
Weingart SN, Massagli M, Cyrulik A, Isaac T, Morway L, Sands DZ, Weissman JS. Assessing the value of electronic prescribing in ambulatory care: a focus group study. Int J Med Inform 2009;78(9):571-8.Abstract
INTRODUCTION: Drug allergy and interaction alerts are a core function of most electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) systems. To characterize the value of e-prescribing and medication safety alerts, especially in small and medium-size practices, we undertook a hypothesis-generating focus group study of Massachusetts clinicians. We sought to understand the reasons for adoption and use of e-prescribing, as well as clinicians' complaints about and perceived benefits of drug allergy and interaction alerts. METHODS: We recruited 25 Massachusetts clinicians to participate in three focus groups regarding the use and value of e-prescribing and medication safety alerts. The participants included high-volume (>100 electronic scripts per month) physicians, nurse practitioners, and practice assistants in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, and subspecialty practices who used a common commercial e-prescribing system. RESULTS: Most clinicians were in small and medium-size group practices. Participants were, on average, 25 years post-medical school graduation (range 8-36), had used e-prescribing for 2.5 years (range 1.0-5.5), and wrote the majority (89%, range 15-100%) of prescriptions electronically. The participants' decision to adopt e-prescribing was driven largely by financial incentives offered by insurers, and was viewed as a step toward implementation of an electronic medical record. Although participants agreed that the system was easy to learn, few anticipated efficiencies were realized until clinicians configured the device to meet their needs. The participants were ambivalent about whether e-prescribing improved their own or overall office efficiency, and--in the absence of payer incentives--few were willing to pay for the systems out-of-pocket. The most valuable aspects of e-prescribing were the ease of changing doses, renewing prescriptions, ensuring legibility, and transmitting prescriptions to in- and out-of-state pharmacies. Participants were dissatisfied with the unreliability of transmitting prescriptions successfully to the pharmacy, and with their inability to merge duplicate patient entries, to create a comprehensive, allprescriber medication list, to write prescriptions for commonly ordered medications and supplies, and to enter allergy information into the system. Participants were critical of the volume of drug allergy and interaction alerts. Many alerts were of trivial clinical significance or were generated by interactions with out-of-date medications. As a result, many clinicians habitually ignored these alerts. Alerts were most helpful to clinicians who were unfamiliar with a particular drug or patient. Although alerts rarely led the clinicians to abort or alter a prescription, alerts did prompt clinicians to counsel patients about medication side effects, to educate themselves about potential interactions, to check physical examination findings, or to order laboratory tests. Despite problems, few clinicians were willing to forego receiving alerts for fear that they would miss a potentially dangerous drug interaction. CONCLUSION: Electronic prescribing is a potential boon to ambulatory medical practice, although its value may be compromised by inappropriate and irrelevant medication safety alerts and by features of the e-prescribing system that prove burdensome to frontline clinicians. While alerts infrequently result in changed or aborted prescriptions, they may trigger a variety of other provider behaviors that help to ensure safe care.
Isaac T, Weissman JS, Davis RB, Massagli M, Cyrulik A, Sands DZ, Weingart SN. Overrides of medication alerts in ambulatory care. Arch Intern Med 2009;169(3):305-11.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Electronic prescribing systems with decision support may improve patient safety in ambulatory care by offering drug allergy and drug interaction alerts. However, preliminary studies show that clinicians override most of these alerts. METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of 233 537 medication safety alerts generated by 2872 clinicians in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who used a common electronic prescribing system from January 1, 2006, through September 30, 2006. We used multivariate techniques to examine factors associated with alert acceptance. RESULTS: A total of 6.6% of electronic prescription attempts generated alerts. Clinicians accepted 9.2% of drug interaction alerts and 23.0% of allergy alerts. High-severity interactions accounted for most alerts (61.6%); clinicians accepted high-severity alerts slightly more often than moderate- or low-severity interaction alerts (10.4%, 7.3%, and 7.1%, respectively; P < .001). Clinicians accepted 2.2% to 43.1% of high-severity interaction alerts, depending on the classes of interacting medications. In multivariable analyses, we found no difference in alert acceptance among clinicians of different specialties (P = .16). Clinicians were less likely to accept a drug interaction alert if the patient had previously received the alerted medication (odds ratio, 0.03; 95% confidence interval, 0.03-0.03). CONCLUSION: Clinicians override most medication alerts, suggesting that current medication safety alerts may be inadequate to protect patient safety.
Marin HF, Safran C. Celebrating health informatics--a sampling of MEDINFO 2007. Int J Med Inform 2009;78 Suppl 1:S1-2.
Gardner RM, Overhage MJ, Steen EB, Munger BS, Holmes JH, Williamson JJ, Detmer DE. Core content for the subspecialty of clinical informatics. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2009;16(2):153-7.Abstract
The Core Content for Clinical Informatics defines the boundaries of the discipline and informs the Program Requirements for Fellowship Education in Clinical Informatics. The Core Content includes four major categories: fundamentals, clinical decision making and care process improvement, health information systems, and leadership and management of change. The AMIA Board of Directors approved the Core Content for Clinical Informatics in November 2008.
Shortliffe EH, Bates DW, Bloomrosen M, Greenwood K, Safran C, Steen EB, Tang PC, Williamson JJ. Don E. Detmer and the American Medical Informatics Association: an appreciation. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2009;16(4):429-38.Abstract
Don E. Detmer has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) for the past five years, helping to set a course for the organization and demonstrating remarkable leadership as AMIA has evolved into a vibrant and influential professional association. On the occasion of Dr. Detmer's retirement, we fondly reflect on his professional life and his many contributions to biomedical informatics and, more generally, to health care in the U.S. and globally.
Safran C, Shabot MM, Munger BS, Holmes JH, Steen EB, Lumpkin JR, Detmer DE. Program requirements for fellowship education in the subspecialty of clinical informatics. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2009;16(2):158-66.Abstract
The Program Requirements for Fellowship Education identify the knowledge and skills that physicians must master through the course of a training program to be certified in the subspecialty of clinical informatics. They also specify accreditation requirements for clinical informatics training programs. The AMIA Board of Directors approved this document in November 2008.
Reti SR, Feldman HJ, Safran C. Governance for personal health records. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2009;16(1):14-7.Abstract
Personal health records (PHR) are a modern health technology with the ability to engage patients more fully in their healthcare. Despite widespread interest, there has been little discussion around PHR governance at an organizational level. We develop a governance model and compare it to the practices of some of the early PHR adopters, including hospitals and ambulatory care settings, insurers and health plans, government departments, and commercial sectors. Decision-making structures varied between organizations. Business operations were present in all groups, but patients were not represented in any of the governance structures surveyed. To improve patient-centered care, policy making for PHRs needs to include patient representation at a governance level.
Cytryn KN, Yoskowitz NA, Cimino JJ, Patel VL. Lay public's knowledge and decisions in response to symptoms of acute myocardial infarction. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract 2009;14(1):43-59.Abstract
Despite public health initiatives targeting rapid action in response to symptoms of myocardial infarction (MI), people continue to delay in going to a hospital when experiencing these symptoms due to lack of recognition as cardiac-related. The objective of this research was to characterize lay individuals' knowledge of symptoms of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and associated decision processes for timely action. Thirty participants were interviewed about their knowledge of AMI, then presented with unrelated, unfamiliar and familiar scenarios of AMI symptoms and instructed to "think aloud" as they made decisions in response to the scenarios in order to capture the decision process directly. Data were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods to identify the semantic relationships between knowledge and decisions. Results showed that most participants (80%) identified three symptoms or less (e.g., chest pain: 93%; dyspnea: 53%). All participants identified urgent actions (calling 911, going to ED) as the appropriate response to AMI symptoms. Urgent action decisions increased with familiarity of symptoms (57% for unrelated symptoms to 83% for most familiar symptoms), and was highest for the cardiac group. Lay knowledge of AMI is necessary, but not sufficient for people to develop required heuristics for timely action. This ineffective decision increases as a function of ambiguous and unfamiliar situations. Health education interventions should focus on teaching clusters of problems with varying levels of familiarity and complexity to increase flexibility in making decisions.
Safran C. Informatics training for clinicians is more important than hardware and software. Yearb Med Inform 2009;:164-5.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: The importance of training physicians and nurses in the art, skill and science of clinical informatics has never been greater. What level of training is necessary and sufficient to equip the 21st century healthcare workforce for the transformative opportunity enabled by widespread deployment of EHRs? METHODS: Building on the success of its 10x10 program, AMIA with support from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation took its next step to create the necessary documents to have clinical informatics recognized as a sub-specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). RESULTS: We defined the core content that had to be mastered and describing how physicians interested in the sub-specialty clinical informatics would be trained. The results of this work have been approved by the board of AMIA and have been published in its journal JAMIA. CONCLUSION: The health challenges of the 21 century require that we rapidly train the clinical workforce in clinical informatics. In addition to buying hardware and software, our health systems need to sponsor this training. Two percent of every Health IT budget should be targeted for clinician education.
Braverman J, Dedier J. Predictors of medication adherence for African American patients diagnosed with hypertension. Ethn Dis 2009;19(4):396-400.Abstract
BACKGROUND: The prevalence, morbidity and mortality of hypertension are strikingly higher for African Americans than for Whites. Poor adherence to the antihypertensive medication regimen is a major cause of inadequate blood pressure control. In this study, we assess the relationship of antihypertensive medication adherence to sociodemographic, clinical and cognitive characteristics of urban African American adults. METHOD: Data were drawn from a larger randomized controlled trial assessing the effect of a behavioral intervention to improve medication adherence and blood pressure control among hypertensive African American patients followed in an urban primary care network. Medication adherence was assessed at baseline using the Medication Event Monitoring System (MEMS)--a method regarded as the gold standard for assessing medication adherence in clinical research. Information on potential correlates of medication adherence (sociodemographic, clinical and cognitive) was obtained at baseline by computer-assisted interview. We assessed the cross sectional association of these factors to medication adherence in baseline data. RESULTS: Medication adherence was significantly associated with systolic blood pressure (r=.253, P<.04) and self-reported medication adherence (r=.285, P<.03). The relationship of education to medication adherence varied significantly by sex (P<.05 for interaction). Specifically, lower educational attainment was related to higher adherence among men, but lower adherence among women. CONCLUSION: Identifying correlates of low antihypertensive medication adherence and their interactions, as in this study, will help health providers to better recognize patients at higher risk for worse hypertension-related outcomes. This knowledge can also inform interventions which target a higher-risk subset of hypertensive patients.
2008
Howard SC, Metzger ML, Wilimas JA, Quintana Y, Pui C-H, Robison LL, Ribeiro RC. Childhood cancer epidemiology in low-income countries. Cancer 2008;112(3):461-72.Abstract
Global studies of childhood cancer provide clues to cancer etiology, facilitate prevention and early diagnosis, identify biologic differences, improve survival rates in low-income countries (LIC) by facilitating quality improvement initiatives, and improve outcomes in high-income countries (HIC) through studies of tumor biology and collaborative clinical trials. Incidence rates of cancer differ between various ethnic groups within a single country and between various countries with similar ethnic compositions. Such differences may be the result of genetic predisposition, early or delayed exposure to infectious diseases, and other environmental factors. The reported incidence of childhood leukemia is lower in LIC than in more prosperous countries. Registration of childhood leukemia requires recognition of symptoms, rapid access to primary and tertiary medical care (a pediatric cancer unit), a correct diagnosis, and a data management infrastructure. In LIC, where these services are lacking, some children with leukemia may die before diagnosis and registration. In this environment, epidemiologic studies would seem to be an unaffordable luxury, but in reality represent a key element for progress. Hospital-based registries are both feasible and essential in LIC, and can be developed using available training programs for data managers and the free online Pediatric Oncology Networked Data Base (www.POND4kids.org), which allows collection, analysis, and sharing of data.
González GV, Orellana PB, Manuel López JM, Jiménez MM, Quintana JCY. Early parathyroid MIBI SPECT imaging in the diagnosis of persistent hyperparathyroidism. Clin Nucl Med 2008;33(7):475-8.Abstract
We present a case that demonstrates the utility of early SPECT images associated with fusion images with MRI for presurgical localization in a case of persistent hyperparathyroidism after a first surgery. Three years after that surgery, severe hypercalcemia (14.7 mg/dL) and elevated parathormone (PTH) (944 pg/mL) were detected. MRI and SPECT parathyroid scintigraphy showed an abnormal parathyroid lesion localized behind the inferior pole of the thyroid right lobe. At surgical reexploration a right inferior parathyroid adenoma was removed (258 mg). However, intraoperative PTH remained high and a total thyroidectomy was performed looking for an intrathyroid lesion. After that, the elevated PTH persisted and an ectopic parathyroid gland was identified in the tracheoesophageal groove (958 mg), corresponding with the lesion seen on the fusion image of MRI and SPECT. After removal of this lesion, the PTH dropped to 85%.
Roter DL, Larson S, Sands DZ, Ford DE, Houston T. Can e-mail messages between patients and physicians be patient-centered?. Health Commun 2008;23(1):80-6.Abstract
This study explores the extent to which e-mail messages between patients and physicians mimic the communication dynamics of traditional medical dialogue and its fulfillment of communication functions. Eight volunteers drawn from a larger study of e-mail users agreed to supply copies of their last 5 e-mail messages with their physicians and the physician replies. Seventy-four e-mail messages (40 patient and 34 physician) were provided and coded using the Roter Interactive Analysis System. The study found that physicians' e-mails are shorter and more direct than those of patients, averaging half the number of statements (7 vs. 14; p < .02) and words (62 vs. 121; p < .02). Whereas 72% of physician and 59% of patient statements were devoted to information exchange, the remaining communication is characterized as expressing and responding to emotions and acting to build a therapeutic partnership. Comparisons between e-mail and with face-to-face communication show many similarities in the address of these tasks. The authors concluded that e-mail accomplishes informational tasks but is also a vehicle for emotional support and partnership. The patterns of e-mail exchange appear similar to those of in-person visits and can be used by physicians in a patient-centered manner. E-mail has the potential to support the doctor-patient relationship by providing a medium through which patients can express worries and concerns and physicians can be patient-centered in response.
Sands DZ. ePatients: engaging patients in their own care. Medscape J Med 2008;10(1):19.
Weingart SN, Hamrick HE, Tutkus S, Carbo A, Sands DZ, Tess A, Davis RB, Bates DW, Phillips RS. Medication safety messages for patients via the web portal: the MedCheck intervention. Int J Med Inform 2008;77(3):161-8.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: Communication failures account for many adverse drug events (ADEs) in adult primary care. Improving patient-physician communication may improve medication safety. Accordingly, the goal of this study was to learn whether electronic medication safety messages directed to patients can improve communication about medications and identify ADEs. DESIGN: We studied adult patients enrolled in a patient Internet portal at three primary care practices affiliated with a teaching hospital. MedCheck, a medication safety application, sent patients a secure electronic message 10 days after they received a new or changed prescription. MedCheck asked if the patient had filled the prescription or experienced medication-related problems, and then forwarded the patient's response to their primary care physician. MEASUREMENTS: We selected a stratified random sample of 267 subjects from 1821 patients who received and opened a MedCheck message from April 2001 to June 2002. We reviewed subjects' medical records for three months following their first MedCheck message. We analyzed patient and clinician response rates and times, examined patient-clinician communication about medications, and identified ADEs. RESULTS: Patients opened 79% of MedCheck messages and responded to 12%; 77% responded within 1 day. Patients often identified problems filling their prescriptions (48%), problems with drug effectiveness (12%), and medication symptoms (10%). Clinicians responded to 68% of patients' messages; 93% answered within 1 week. Clinicians often supplied or requested information (19%), or made multiple recommendations (15%). Patients experienced 21 total ADEs; they reported 17 electronically. CONCLUSION: Patients and physicians responded promptly to patient-directed electronic medication messages, identifying and addressing medication-related problems including ADEs.
Sands DZ. Failed connections: why connecting humans is as important as connecting computers. Medscape J Med 2008;10(11):262.
Kanter AS, Wang AY, Masarie FE, Naeymi-Rad F, Safran C. Interface terminologies: bridging the gap between theory and reality for Africa. Stud Health Technol Inform 2008;136:27-32.Abstract
In the United States and Europe, electronic health records (EHRs) allow information technology and decision-support to facilitate the activities of clinicians and are considered an important component of health care improvement. However, actual adoption of EHRs by physicians has been slow and the use of decision support has been minimal. Part of the difficulty lies in the challenges that users face in capturing structured clinical information. Reference and administrative terminologies have been in use for many years and provide a critical infrastructure to support reimbursement, decision-support and data analysis. The problem is that physicians do not think and work using reference terminologies. Interface terminologies bridge the gap between information that is in the physician's mind and information that can be interpreted by computer applications. The maps from interface terminologies to appropriate reference terminologies enable advanced functionality in clinical information systems. The conflict between the need for timely adoption of health information technology and the need for standardization is also relevant to the problems faced by health information technology in Africa. The problem of clinicians having to communicate and/or record information in a format that is acceptable to someone else, somewhere else, leaves the true benefits of these systems beyond the reach of most in Africa. There is a growing effort in the United States to produce clinically-relevant interface terminologies mapped to standards. These interface terminologies can be expanded to incorporate the languages and clinical requirements of clinicians in Africa. The adoption of interface terminologies will help bring the value of standard terminology and the resulting benefits of decision-support, data analysis and information retrieval to parts of the world where they are needed most.

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