The Future of Personal Health Records
"We have to think bigger, and figure out how to take full advantage of the amazing new opportunities technology is providing," says Patricia Flatley Brennan, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, who holds professorships in both the UW-Madison School of Nursing and College of Engineering.
Brennan is the national program director of Project HealthDesign, a program which aims to create a new generation of personal health records. Originally funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2006, Project HealthDesign recently received an additional $5.3 million in funding to continue to explore Brennan's vision. The award will allow the project to continue into 2012.
Brennan acknowledges that several health-information vendors are moving forward on various versions of electronic personal health records. But her vision, which derives from her role as a nurse and teacher of nurses, is both broader and more centered around the patient.
"Project HealthDesign speaks to what is unique about nursing research, which strives to help people find ways to understand and manage their own health," she says.
Imagine having a tool that keeps track of your accumulated health history—allergies, vaccinations, lab results, etc., that is collected during a typical clinical encounter—plus clinical information passively gathered from you—your blood pressure or glucose level, for example.
Consider a diabetic, who tries to carefully manage her food intake, exercise, medication and all of their effects on her blood sugar, sleep habits and mood. A really useful personal health-information system would allow her to track all of those factors, give regular reports back to her with suggestions or warnings, and also alert a nurse or physician if her blood sugar was in a dangerous range.
During the first round of the project, researchers developed prototype tools that did much of the above. In its second round, researchers will focus on how the integrated information can be used in a clinical setting.
"By integrating what happens during a care visit with observations of daily living, caregivers and patients will have a more complete picture of how the patient manages his disease," says Brennan.
Dr. Brennan was recently selected to be one of five UW-Madison faculty whose research proposals will establish the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID).
Her proposal for the Health Technology Design in the Living Environments Laboratory is aimed at accelerating the development of personal care diagnostic and therapeutic technology to support individuals and families in the detection, recognition and management of health problems.
"The Living Environments Laboratory research will help expand Project HealthDesign's vision of engaging people in managing their health," according to Dr. Brennan, "by developing new devices and creative technologies to better understand health in everyday living."
One focus will be to learn how individuals now access and manage health information at home, and then propose improvements that are workable in the real world.
Date Published: 09/01/2009