Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute - Advancing Research with Collaboration

As the healthcare system faces the challenge of meeting the increasing needs of patient volumes from the Baby Boom, the existing model of “spend more to get more” just isn’t going to scale. We need to find new ways to detect and treat disease, and ultimately, reduce the incidence of illnesses by arming patients with advanced education and improved wellness coaching. The new Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute in Toronto is working toward these and other goals through a number of research initiatives, turning to advanced collaboration technologies to make their work more effective and efficient.

The Institute has research objectives that include demystifying the underlying causes of poorly understood diseases, pandemic response management and the social and ethical implications of health and wellness. This broad range of activity means that experts from around the world need to cooperate on these and other problems as they devise meaningful solutions to address them. In-person, face-to-face collaboration would be great, but flying around on airplanes just doesn’t make sense anymore. And phone calls don’t provide enough of a rich experience to work very effectively on these complex projects.

Instead, the new Li Ka Shing Institute has turned to a wide array of Cisco collaboration offerings that range from video phones to large-screen conferencing systems. This will enable a collaborative rich media experience for the researchers working on projects, whether they are at the Institute or anywhere else in the world.

The Institute’s Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre is equipped with a full-size operating room and features video conferencing units, including Cisco TelePresence, for live remote collaboration. This allows sessions and experiments to be recorded and stored for future retrieval and viewing by hospital staff. The simulation room, which lets full-time and training EMS workers tackle real-life medical scenarios, also features an anatomically correct mannequin that responds to the administration of oxygen, fluids and CPR.

This advanced collaborative experience isn’t limited to bridge teams working over long distances either. Inside the facility, they have virtualized the reception desk by using a video-based concierge service to greet guests. Also, workers can connect by video phone to verify the ID of visitors before they enter a lab facility and digital information signage has been erected throughout the facility.

We are honoured to have played a part in supporting the research at the Li Ka Shing Institute. We expect that their work will be accelerated, in part by the use of the advanced collaboration tools they are deploying. And given that I represent the tail-end of the Baby Boom, I’m looking forward to some of their work being ready to benefit me when I need it!

Brantz Myers is the director of healthcare business development for Cisco Systems in Canada


30. October 2011 16:49 by Brantz | Comments (16767) | Permalink

Health care not yet ready to share

Health care not yet ready to share

(From the Globe and Mail - Friday, June 10, 2011)

An industry struggles to loosen control of record storage in order to improve communication and cut costs

Special to The Globe and Mail

Health care providers could benefit from putting their heads in the clouds - the computing clouds, that is. But many in the field do not appear willing to do it.

"The technology is there but the politics aren't necessarily ready nationally," says Brantz Myers, director of health care business development for Cisco Systems Canada. "The players and the people in the health system have their own local agendas in many cases, and are really making it a challenge."

If Canadian hospitals and health providers moved to cloud-based services, they could relieve themselves of managing and maintaining their own computing infrastructure and, in turn, offer better access to health information and improve sharing of patient records between institutions, Mr. Myers says.

Some local and regional institutions are threatened by the cloud, Mr. Myers says. But he says some regional health-information services in Ontario, which already support up to 15 hospitals, may eventually evolve into a cloud service for the entire province.

The installation of cloud systems would not result in the wholesale elimination of hospital IT staff, as some have feared, he says. As technology becomes more efficient, however, some people and their jobs are at risk. That's where the cost savings lie - in eliminating redundant, non-scalable, non-interoperable work. Any reallocation of resources could be used to bolster patient care, he points out.

"The real shift is moving them from the server room to the client side," he says. "In the past, we'd have a nursing station with a few computers at it and now we're moving to potentially multiple devices per person in the health system. And that includes the patient."

It's clear something needs to change. After years of talk, no single, co-ordinated information system has emerged to serve the country, let alone each province, that allows electronic patient records to be shared. Experts have noted that the savings such a system would create could be redirected into, say, shorter wait times for knee replacements. Yet progress has been slow.

Consider this scenario: You have an expensive diagnostic test in Toronto. Then you travel to another province, or even a different part of Ontario, and suffer a heart attack.

The doctor examining you likely won't be able to access your critical medical information because the hospitals' electronic patient record systems are incompatible. So that diagnostic test you had may be unnecessarily repeated - that is, if you're not already dead.

A lot of the problem boils down to "interoperability" between systems at myriad institutions, says Oliver Tsai, director of information technology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

Sunnybrook has developed its own cloud-based software, called MyChart. Patients can access, and choose to share, all their personal health information stored on MyChart, using any kind of device with Internet capability.

So, if you're a Sunnybrook patient and conscious in emergency, you can fire up your iPhone and share your last ECG test with the medical team.

"We're working with other hospitals to co-ordinate information from multiple electronic patient records into a single MyChart," says Mr. Tsai. "That's the big challenge. It could bring health care costs down enormously because co-ordinating access to test results could significantly reduce duplication."

While the challenges of interoperability continue to stymie the health care world, security is another big issue. Not all health organizations like the idea of sharing in a cloud.

Mr. Tsai says Sunnybrook's system uses the same security technology that the banks use. "Our privacy office went to a great deal of work ensuring that access was compliant with both provincial and hospital policies," he says.

Jim Forbes, chief technology officer at Toronto's University Health Network, an umbrella organization of three major hospitals, believes cloud computing offers value to the health system. But he's waiting for some legal clarity and looking for more vendors to be operating within Canada. NHN isn't using cloud computing. The fact that most major cloud services are being offered out of the U.S., that's a worry for him.

"There's a lot of nervousness about storing data in the United States because of the Patriot Act," says Mr. Forbes. "Our main concern is privacy, partly because of sharing with other people and partly because the Patriot Act gives the U.S. government authority to have access to records if they're stored on American soil."

What UHN would like to see is a private federal or provincial government cloud that provides a shared resource for health applications and information that is offered only to health care customers.

So far, no one has done that.

Mr. Tsai believes that Ontario, through its ehealth Ontario initiative, is trying to move in that direction, but it's a complex process. "Progress is slow but steady, and very challenging," says Mr. Tsai. "If you look west to British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, they're already seeing strides toward co-ordinating these electronic patient records between different institutions."

Cisco's Mr. Myers says that if each province built a private cloud, "we might still have interoperability challenges across those 10 clouds. But inside each one of those clouds, we'd go a long way toward solving the challenge of being able to move from one part of a province to another with shared access to electronic medical records."

Mr. Myers predicts we will likely see real health clouds within 18 to 24 months.

"There's a bit of a shift with younger doctors coming into the health system," says Mr. Myers.

"They're more used to a shared world through social networking. As those concepts make their way into the workplace, the politics will slowly go away."


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2. October 2011 00:44 by Brantz | Comments (18487) | Permalink

Brantz Myers

Brantz started his professional career in Health Informatics in 1986.  He created a small consultancy company and one of his first projects was to develop an Electronic Medical Record system with a strong analytics engine to support a Neurologist's clinical practice and research projects.  Brantz and his small team took the application to market, successfully enabling several customers which ultimately led to the sale of the company.  He then went into general IT Sales and Marketing for the next 20 years where he worked and waited for the healthcare industry to ready itself for the new potential that health informatics had to offer.  Brantz is now fully engaged in the challenge of transforming Healthcare in Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

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