Publications

2008
Aronsky D, Leong TY, Talmon J, Haux R, Safran C. Writing for publication in biomedical informatics. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2008;:1229-32.Abstract
Writing for publication can be a rewarding activity for researchers at all levels of experience. However, many students and researchers are less familiar with the various aspects of the publication process. The purpose of this workshop is to provide participants with the knowledge, skills, and practical advice that can lead to successful scientific publications.
2007
Caniza MA, Maron G, Moore EJ, Quintana Y, Liu T. Effective hand hygiene education with the use of flipcharts in a hospital in El Salvador. J Hosp Infect 2007;65(1):58-64.Abstract
In developing countries, continuing education for healthcare staff may be limited by staff shortages and lack of sophisticated means of delivery. These limitations have implications for compliance with an important infection control practice, namely good hand hygiene. A comparison was made between the efficacy of two educational tools commonly used in healthcare and practical sanitation settings in developing countries, i.e. videotapes and flipcharts, in delivering hand hygiene education to 67 nurses in a paediatric hospital in El Salvador. Efficacy was measured on the basis of scores obtained in pre- and post-training tests consisting of 10 multiple-choice questions. Half of the nurses received video-based instruction and half received instruction via flipcharts. Both methods of instruction increased participants' knowledge of good hand hygiene, and the extent of knowledge acquisition by the two methods was similar. Feedback obtained from flipchart users six months after training indicated that most of the respondents used the flipchart to teach hand hygiene to patients' families (62.5%), patients (50%) and healthcare workers (43.8%). Flipchart users ranked flipcharts as their favourite educational tool. Flipcharts offer an economical, easy-to-use, non-technological yet effective alternative to videotapes for delivering education in developing countries. Although the use of flipcharts requires a skilled and well-trained instructor, flipcharts could be used more widely to deliver education in resource-poor settings.
Ayoub L, Fú L, Peña A, Sierra JM, Dominguez PC, Pui C-H, Quintana Y, Rodriguez A, Barr RD, Ribeiro RC, Metzger ML, Wilimas JA, Howard SC. Implementation of a data management program in a pediatric cancer unit in a low income country. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2007;49(1):23-7.Abstract
INTRODUCTION: Pediatric cancer units in low-income countries lack data on which to base quality improvement initiatives. We implemented a data management program in the oncology unit of the children's hospital of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and then we assessed training and supervision of data managers, data accuracy, and completeness as well as obstacles encountered. METHODS: Training included 2 days of off-site hands-on instruction in the use of an online database, daily on-site supervision by physicians, periodic online meetings for education and problem-solving, and continuous e-mail support. RESULTS: Of the 652 patients diagnosed with acute leukemia between July 1995 and June 2005, 150 (23%) had not yet been registered in the database at the time of audit and 65 (10%) had missing medical records. The remaining 437 charts (67%) were reviewed by an external auditor and compared to the data entered previously by the two trained data managers. Protocol information was incomplete in 30% of cases, and the cause of death was inaccurate in 18%. All other data were 99% accurate and 93%-100% complete. Obstacles included a limited medical records system, poor organization of the charts, missing records, inconsistently documented protocol information, data managers who lack a medical background, and slow or unreliable internet connections. CONCLUSION: Data managers can be trained to effectively collect basic pediatric oncology data in a low-income country. Addressing inadequacies in the medical record system while providing specific training in protocol-based care and determination of cause of death for both physicians and data managers will improve data quality.
McGillicuddy DC, Shah KH, Friedberg RP, Nathanson LA, Edlow JA. How sensitive is the synovial fluid white blood cell count in diagnosing septic arthritis?. Am J Emerg Med 2007;25(7):749-52.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: This study was conducted to determine the sensitivity of the current standard for synovial fluid leukocytosis analysis in diagnosing infectious arthritis or a septic joint. How accurate is the standard synovial fluid white blood cell (WBC) cutoff of 50,000 WBC/mm3 to rule out septic arthritis? METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study at an urban tertiary care medical center with 50,000 adult emergency department visits per year. The study population consisted of patients with infectious arthritis confirmed by synovial fluid culture growth of a pathogenic organism. The study period lasted from January 1996 to December 2002. Extracted data included synovial fluid leukocyte count, Gram's stain, culture, past medical history, and discharge diagnosis. Fisher exact test was used to compare proportions. Sensitivity and means were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (CI). RESULTS: There were 49 culture-positive synovial fluid aspirates in the 6-year study period. Nineteen (39%) of 49 patients (95% CI, 25%-52%) had a synovial WBC of less than 50,000/mm3 and 30 (61%) of 49 patients (95% CI, 48%-75%) had a synovial WBC of more than 50,000/mm3. The sensitivity of the 50,000 synovial WBC/mm3 cutoff was 61% (95% CI, 48%-75%). Twenty-seven (55%) of 49 patients had a negative Gram's stain (95% CI, 41%-69%) and 15 (56%) of 27 patients (95% CI, 37%-74%) with negative Gram's stain had a synovial WBC of less than 50,000/mm3. CONCLUSION: A synovial fluid WBC cutoff of 50,000/mm3 lacks the sensitivity required to be clinically useful in ruling out infectious arthritis.
Safran C, Bloomrosen M, Hammond EW, Labkoff S, Markel-Fox S, Tang PC, Detmer DE, Detmer DE. Toward a national framework for the secondary use of health data: an American Medical Informatics Association White Paper. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2007;14(1):1-9.Abstract
Secondary use of health data applies personal health information (PHI) for uses outside of direct health care delivery. It includes such activities as analysis, research, quality and safety measurement, public health, payment, provider certification or accreditation, marketing, and other business applications, including strictly commercial activities. Secondary use of health data can enhance health care experiences for individuals, expand knowledge about disease and appropriate treatments, strengthen understanding about effectiveness and efficiency of health care systems, support public health and security goals, and aid businesses in meeting customers' needs. Yet, complex ethical, political, technical, and social issues surround the secondary use of health data. While not new, these issues play increasingly critical and complex roles given current public and private sector activities not only expanding health data volume, but also improving access to data. Lack of coherent policies and standard "good practices" for secondary use of health data impedes efforts to strengthen the U.S. health care system. The nation requires a framework for the secondary use of health data with a robust infrastructure of policies, standards, and best practices. Such a framework can guide and facilitate widespread collection, storage, aggregation, linkage, and transmission of health data. The framework will provide appropriate protections for legitimate secondary use.
Slack WV. Cybermedicine for the patient. Am J Prev Med 2007;32(5 Suppl):S135-6.
2006
Weingart SN, Pagovich O, Sands DZ, Li JM, Aronson MD, Davis RB, Phillips RS, Bates DW. Patient-reported service quality on a medicine unit. Int J Qual Health Care 2006;18(2):95-101.Abstract
PURPOSE: Service quality, defined as patients' self-reported experience of care, is used as a metric for evaluating quality. Most studies rely on retrospective consumer surveys rather then more intensive data collection methods, possibly underestimating the incidence of service quality incidents. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The objective of the study was to characterize patient-reported service quality deficiencies on a general medicine unit. We studied a cohort of 228 adult inpatients at a Boston teaching hospital. Investigators reviewed medical records and interviewed patients during the hospitalization and by telephone after discharge. Physician investigators classified patients' incident reports. We calculated the rate of service incidents, characterized incident types, and used multivariable Poisson and logistic regression models to examine factors associated with patient reporting and overall rating of the hospitalization. RESULTS: Eighty-eight (38.6%) of 228 patients experienced 157 service quality incidents during the admission, for a rate of 68.9 incidents per 100 admissions. The most common service quality problems involved waits and delays (n = 45), problems with communication between staff and patients (n = 36), and environmental issues and amenities (n = 35). In the multivariable analysis, men (IRR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.2), patients covered by hospitalists (1.5, 1.1-2.2), and patients with more medication allergies (1.1 per allergy, 1.1-1.2) reported more service incidents; patients with Medicaid or free care reported fewer (0.5, 0.3-0.9). Patients with service quality incidents were more likely to describe the hospitalization as other than excellent (adjusted OR 1.8 per incident, 95% CI 1.3-2.5). CONCLUSION: Service quality deficiencies are common among medical inpatients, and are strongly associated with patients' dissatisfaction with the hospitalization.
Tang PC, Ash JS, Bates DW, Overhage MJ, Sands DZ. Personal health records: definitions, benefits, and strategies for overcoming barriers to adoption. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2006;13(2):121-6.Abstract
Recently there has been a remarkable upsurge in activity surrounding the adoption of personal health record (PHR) systems for patients and consumers. The biomedical literature does not yet adequately describe the potential capabilities and utility of PHR systems. In addition, the lack of a proven business case for widespread deployment hinders PHR adoption. In a 2005 working symposium, the American Medical Informatics Association's College of Medical Informatics discussed the issues surrounding personal health record systems and developed recommendations for PHR-promoting activities. Personal health record systems are more than just static repositories for patient data; they combine data, knowledge, and software tools, which help patients to become active participants in their own care. When PHRs are integrated with electronic health record systems, they provide greater benefits than would stand-alone systems for consumers. This paper summarizes the College Symposium discussions on PHR systems and provides definitions, system characteristics, technical architectures, benefits, barriers to adoption, and strategies for increasing adoption.
Weingart SN, Rind D, Tofias Z, Sands DZ. Who uses the patient internet portal? The PatientSite experience. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2006;13(1):91-5.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: Although the patient Internet portal is a potentially transformative technology, there is little scientific information about the demographic and clinical characteristics of portal enrollees and the features that they access. DESIGN: We describe two pilot studies of a comprehensive Internet portal called PatientSite. These pilots include a prospective one-year cohort study of all patients who enrolled in April 2003 and a case-control study in 2004 of enrollees and nonenrollees at two hospital-based primary care practices. MEASUREMENTS: The cohort study tracked patient enrollment and features in PatientSite that enrollees accessed, such as laboratory and radiology results, prescription renewals, appointment requests, managed care referrals, and clinical messaging. The case-control study used medical record review to compare the demographic and clinical characteristics of 100 randomly selected PatientSite enrollees and 100 nonenrollees. RESULTS: PatientSite use grew steadily after its introduction. New enrollees logged in most frequently in the first month, but 26% to 77% of the cohort continued to access the portal at least monthly. They most often examined laboratory and radiology results and sent clinical messages to their providers. PatientSite enrollees were younger and more affluent and had fewer medical problems than nonenrollees. CONCLUSION: Expanding the use of patient portals will require an understanding of obstacles that prevent access for those who might benefit most from this technology.
Miller RA, Groth T, Hasman A, Haux R, McCray AT, Safran C, Shortliffe EH. On exemplary scientific conduct regarding submission of manuscripts to biomedical informatics journals. Comput Methods Programs Biomed 2006;81(3):195-6.
2005
Quintana Y, Howard S, Norland M, Patel A, O'Brien R, Ribeiro R. Pond4Kids - an multi-site online Pediatric Oncology Research Database for collaborative protocol research. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2005;:1090.Abstract
Abstract: The Pediatric Oncology Networked Database (POND4Kids) is an online, multilingual database for pediatric hematology/oncology patients. Its purpose is to improve the care of pediatric oncology patients in countries with limited resources by the exchange of information and experience between oncologists in diverse geographic regions who practice in a similar medical environment.
Shapiro NI, Howell MD, Talmor D, Nathanson LA, Lisbon A, Wolfe RE, Weiss WJ. Serum lactate as a predictor of mortality in emergency department patients with infection. Ann Emerg Med 2005;45(5):524-8.Abstract
STUDY OBJECTIVE: Little is known about risk-stratification biomarkers in emergency department (ED) patients with suspected infection, and lactate is a biologically plausible candidate. We determine whether a serum venous lactate is associated with an increased risk of death in ED patients with infection. METHODS: This was a prospective cohort study in an urban, academic medical center with 50,000 annual ED visits. A total of 1,278 consecutive patient visits met enrollment criteria between July 24, 2003, and March 24, 2004, and all patients were enrolled. Inclusion criteria were age 18 years or older, serum lactate level obtained, and admission to the hospital with an infection-related diagnosis. The main outcome measure was all-cause 28-day inhospital mortality and death within 3 days of presentation. RESULTS: Among 1,278 patient visits, there were 105 (8.2%) deaths during hospitalization, with 55 (4.3%) of 1,278 deaths occurring in the first 3 days. Mortality rates increased as lactate increased: 43 (4.9%) of 877 of patients with a lactate level between 0 and 2.5 mmol/L died, 24 (9.0%) of 267 patients with a lactate level between 2.5 and 4.0 mmol/L died, and 38 (28.4%) of 134 patients with a lactate level greater than or equal to 4.0 mmol/L died. Lactate level greater than or equal to 4.0 mmol/L was 36% (95% confidence interval [CI] 27% to 45%) sensitive and 92% (95% CI 90% to 93%) specific for any death; it was 55% (95% CI 41% to 68%) sensitive and 91% (95% CI 90% to 93%) specific for death within 3 days. CONCLUSION: In this cohort of ED patients with signs and symptoms suggestive of infection, our results support serum venous lactate level as a promising risk-stratification tool. Multicenter validation, as well as comparison of the lactate level with clinical predictors, needs to be done before widespread implementation.
Weingart SN, Pagovich O, Sands DZ, Li JM, Aronson MD, Davis RB, Bates DW, Phillips RS. What can hospitalized patients tell us about adverse events? Learning from patient-reported incidents. J Gen Intern Med 2005;20(9):830-6.Abstract
PURPOSE: Little is known about how well hospitalized patients can identify errors or injuries in their care. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to elicit incident reports from hospital inpatients in order to identify and characterize adverse events and near-miss errors. SUBJECTS: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 228 adult inpatients on a medicine unit of a Boston teaching hospital. METHODS: Investigators reviewed medical records and interviewed patients during the hospitalization and by telephone 10 days after discharge about "problems,"mistakes," and "injuries" that occurred. Physician investigators classified patients' reports. We calculated event rates and used multivariable Poisson regression models to examine the factors associated with patient-reported events. RESULTS: Of 264 eligible patients, 228 (86%) agreed to participate and completed 528 interviews. Seventeen patients (8%) experienced 20 adverse events; 1 was serious. Eight patients (4%) experienced 13 near misses; 5 were serious or life threatening. Eleven (55%) of 20 adverse events and 4 (31%) of 13 near misses were documented in the medical record, but none were found in the hospital incident reporting system. Patients with 3 or more drug allergies were more likely to report errors compared with patients without drug allergies (incidence rate ratio 4.7, 95% CI 1.7, 13.4). CONCLUSION: Inpatients can identify adverse events affecting their care. Many patient-identified events are not captured by the hospital incident reporting system or recorded in the medical record. Engaging hospitalized patients as partners in identifying medical errors and injuries is a potentially promising approach for enhancing patient safety.
Safran C, Pompilio-Weitzner G, Emery KD, Hampers L. Collaborative Approaches to e-Health: Valuable for Users and Non-users. Stud Health Technol Inform 2005;116:879-84.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: To describe parental use of an Internet-based educational and emotional support system, in a regional NICU program. METHODS: Baby CareLink was installed in NICUs in 4 Denver area hospitals in 2003. Parents were offered access from hospital terminals and from any other Internet access point. Data on use of the program was collected by the computer system. Discharge status was verified by Colorado's Department of Public Assistance. RESULTS: Of the 388 families admitted to Denver area NICUs with Baby CareLink during the study period, 135 (34.8%) were identified as Medicaid families (needing public assistance). After exclusions, data for 81 Medicaid and 154 non-Medicaid families were available for analysis. Medicaid families who accessed 3 or more Baby CareLink web pages per day took their infants home 17.5 days sooner than families who used Baby CareLink less often (p=0.03). Among the non-Medicaid families, more frequent users of Baby CareLink took their infants home 14.3 days sooner (p=0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Internet portals will be used by both Medicaid and non-Medicaid parents with children in NICUs to meet educational needs. More frequent use of Baby CareLink was associated with significantly shorter length of stay. Self-help tools for parents may free nursing resource for families with greater needs.
Safran C, Detmer DE. Computerized physician order entry systems and medication errors. JAMA 2005;294(2):179; author reply 180-1.
Safran C, Pompilio-Weitzner G, Emery KD, Hampers L. A Medicaid eHealth program: an analysis of benefits to users and nonusers. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2005;:659-63.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: To describe parental use of an Internet-based educational and emotional support system, in a regional NICU program. METHODS: Baby CareLink was installed in NICUs in 4 Denver area hospitals in 2003. Parents were offered access from hospital terminals and from any other Internet access point. Data on use of the program was collected by the computer system. Discharge status was verified by Colorado's Department of Public Assistance. RESULTS: Of the 388 families admitted to Denver area NICUs with Baby CareLink during the study period, 135 (34.8%) were identified as Medicaid families (needing public assistance). After exclusions, data for 81 Medicaid and 154 non-Medicaid families were available for analysis. Medicaid families who accessed 3 or more Baby CareLink web pages per day took their infants home 17.5 days sooner than families who used Baby CareLink less often (p=0.03). Among the non-Medicaid families, more frequent users of Baby CareLink took their infants home 14.3 days sooner (p=0.04). CONCLUSIONS: Internet portals will be used by both Medicaid and non-Medicaid parents with children in NICUs to meet educational needs. More frequent use of Baby CareLink was associated with significantly shorter length of stay. Self-help tools for parents may free nursing resource for families with greater needs.
2004
Delbanco T, Sands DZ. Electrons in flight--e-mail between doctors and patients. N Engl J Med 2004;350(17):1705-7.
Houston TK, Sands DZ, Jenckes MW, Ford DE. Experiences of patients who were early adopters of electronic communication with their physician: satisfaction, benefits, and concerns. Am J Manag Care 2004;10(9):601-8.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: To explore the experiences of patients who were early adopters of e-mail communication with their physicians. METHODS: Patients' experiences were assessed with an Internetbased survey of 1881 individuals and in-depth telephone follow-up interviews with 56 individuals who used e-mail to communicate with providers. Two investigators qualitatively coded interview comments independently, with differences adjudicated by group consensus. RESULTS: A total of 311 (16.5%) of the 1881 individuals reported using electronic mail to communicate with their physicians. Compared with the population-based Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, users of e-mail with physicians were twice as likely to have a college education, were younger, were less frequently ethnic minorities, and more frequently reported fair/poor health. Among the 311 patients who used e-mail with their physicians, the most frequent topics were results of laboratory testing and prescription renewals. However, many of the 311 users (21%) also reported using asynchronous e-mail inappropriately to convey urgent or sensitive issues (suicidality, chest pain, etc). Almost all (95%) perceived that e-mail was more efficient than the telephone. Important benefits uncovered from the interviews were that some patients felt more emboldened to ask questions in e-mail compared with face-to-face communication with doctors, and liked the ability to save the e-mail messages. Users also expressed concerns about privacy. CONCLUSION: Patients that use electronic communication with their physicians find the communication efficient for disease management. Further patient education about inappropriate use of e-mail for urgent issues is needed.
Sands DZ. Help for physicians contemplating use of e-mail with patients. J Am Med Inform Assoc 2004;11(4):268-9.
Weingart SN, Toth M, Eneman J, Aronson MD, Sands DZ, Ship AN, Davis RB, Phillips RS. Lessons from a patient partnership intervention to prevent adverse drug events. Int J Qual Health Care 2004;16(6):499-507.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Patient safety 'best practices' that call for patient participation to prevent adverse drug events have not been rigorously evaluated. OBJECTIVE: To consider lessons learned from a patient partnership intervention to prevent adverse drug events among medical in-patients. DESIGN: Prospective randomized, controlled pilot trial. SETTING: Boston teaching hospital. Patients. Two hundred and nine adult in-patients on a general medicine unit. INTERVENTION: Intervention patients (n = 107) received drug safety information and their medication list; controls (n = 102) received drug safety information only. Measurements. Adverse drug events and close-call drug errors were identified using chart review and incident reports from nurses, pharmacists, and physicians. Patients and clinicians were surveyed about the intervention. RESULTS: In 1053 patient-days at risk, 11 patients experienced 12 adverse drug events and 16 patients experienced 18 close calls. There was a non-significant difference between intervention patients and controls in survey responses and in the adverse drug event rate (8.4% versus 2.9%, P = 0.12) and close-call rate (7.5% versus 9.8%, P = 0.57). Eleven percent of patients were aware of drug-related mistakes during the hospitalization. Among nurse respondents, 29% indicated that at least one medication error was prevented when a patient or family member identified a problem. CONCLUSION: Partnering with in-patients to prevent adverse drug events is a promising strategy but requires further study to document its efficacy.

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