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1.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
2.  We Work with Them? Healthcare Workers Interpretation of Organizational Relations Mined from Electronic Health Records 
Models of healthcare organizations (HCOs) are often defined up front by a select few administrative officials and managers. However, given the size and complexity of modern healthcare systems, this practice does not scale easily. The goal of this work is to investigate the extent to which organizational relationships can be automatically learned from utilization patterns of electronic health record (EHR) systems.
We designed an online survey to solicit the perspectives of employees of a large academic medical center. We surveyed employees from two administrative areas: 1) Coding & Charge Entry and 2) Medical Information Services and two clinical areas: 3) Anesthesiology and 4) Psychiatry. To test our hypotheses we selected two administrative units that have work-related responsibilities with electronic records; however, for the clinical areas we selected two disciplines with very different patient responsibilities and whose accesses and people who accessed were similar. We provided each group of employees with questions regarding the chance of interaction between areas in the medical center in the form of association rules (e.g., Given someone from Coding & Charge Entry accessed a patient’s record, what is the chance that someone from Medical Information Services access the same record?). We compared the respondent predictions with the rules learned from actual EHR utilization using linear-mixed effects regression models.
The findings from our survey confirm that medical center employees can distinguish between association rules of high and non-high likelihood when their own area is involved. Moreover, they can make such distinctions between for any HCO area in this survey. It was further observed that, with respect to highly likely interactions, respondents from certain areas were significantly better than other respondents at making such distinctions and certain areas’ associations were more distinguishable than others.
These results illustrate that EHR utilization patterns may be consistent with the expectations of HCO employees. Our findings show that certain areas in the HCO are easier than others for employees to assess, which suggests that automated learning strategies may yield more accurate models of healthcare organizations than those based on the perspectives of a select few individuals.
PMCID: PMC4159755  PMID: 24845147
Electronic health records; organizational modeling; data mining; survey
3.  Eurocan plus report: feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities 
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project, called for by the European Parliament, was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities in Europe. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people, the largest Europe–wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research.
Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
It is essential to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community is evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form), leading to the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventive strategies. Translational research ranges from bench–to–bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project recommends the creation of a small, permanent and independent European Cancer Initiative (ECI). This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The ECI should assume responsibility for stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes, becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ organizations, European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), putting into practice solutions aimed at alleviating barriers to collaboration and coordination of cancer research activities in the European Union, and dealing with legal and regulatory issues. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this entity should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co–operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe and (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level.
The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control in Europe, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
Executive Summary
Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century—one for which Europe is currently not prepared nor preparing itself. Cancer is a major cause of death in Europe with two million casualties and three million new cases diagnosed annually, and the situation is set to worsen as the population ages.
These facts led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, to call for initiatives for better coordination of cancer research efforts in the European Union. The EUROCAN+PLUS Project was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people. In this respect, the Project became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research, implicating researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, healthcare professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients’ organizations and patients.
The Project first identified barriers impeding research and collaboration in research in Europe. Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
In addition, there is a shortage of leadership, a multiplicity of institutions each focusing on its own agenda, sub–optimal contact with industry, inadequate training, non–existent career paths, low personnel mobility in research especially among clinicians and inefficient funding—all conspiring against efficient collaboration in cancer care and research. European cancer research today does not have a functional translational research continuum, that is the process that exploits biomedical research innovations and converts them into prevention methods, diagnostic tools and therapies. Moreover, epidemiological research is not integrated with other types of cancer research, and the implementation of the European Directives on Clinical Trials 1 and on Personal Data Protection 2 has further slowed the innovation process in Europe. Furthermore, large inequalities in health and research exist between the EU–15 and the New Member States.
The picture is not entirely bleak, however, as the European cancer research scene presents several strengths, such as excellent basic research and clinical research and innovative etiological research that should be better exploited.
When considering recommendations, several priority dimensions had to be retained. It is essential that proposals include actions and recommendations that can benefit all Member States of the European Union and not just States with the elite centres. It is also essential to have a broader patient orientation to help provide the knowledge to establish cancer control possibilities when we exhaust what can be achieved by the implementation of current knowledge. It is vital that the actions proposed can contribute to the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.
The Project participants identified six areas for which consensus solutions should be implemented in order to obtain better coordination of cancer research activities. The required solutions are as follows. The proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community.The establishment of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers.The provision of guidance for translational and clinical research including the establishment of a translational research platform involving comprehensive cancer centres and cancer research centres.The coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects.The construction of a ‘one–stop shop’ as a contact interface between the industry, small and medium enterprises, scientists and other stakeholders.The support of greater involvement of healthcare professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.
In the course of the EUROCAN+PLUS consultative process, several key collaborative projects emerged between the various groups and institutes engaged in the consultation. There was a collaboration network established with Europe’s leading Comprehensive Cancer Centres; funding was awarded for a closer collaboration of Owners of Cancer Registries in Europe (EUROCOURSE); there was funding received from FP7 for an extensive network of leading Biological Resource Centres in Europe (BBMRI); a Working Group identified the special needs of Central, Eastern and South–eastern Europe and proposed a remedy (‘Warsaw Declaration’), and the concept of developing a one–stop shop for dealing with academia and industry including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was discussed in detail.
Several other dimensions currently lacking were identified. There is an absolute necessity to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. It was a salutary lesson when it was recognized that all that is known about the quality of life of the cancer patient comes from the experience of a tiny proportion of cancer patients included in a few clinical trials. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community was evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form) and the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventative strategies in the European Union. Translational research ranges from bench-to-bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
Having taken note of the barriers and the solutions and having examined relevant examples of existing European organizations in the field, it was agreed during the General Assembly of 19 November 2007 that the EUROCAN+PLUS Project had to recommend the creation of a small, permanent and neutral ECI. This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The proposal is based on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and its principal aims include providing a forum where researchers from all backgrounds and from all countries can meet with members of other specialities including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.
The ECI should assume responsibility for: stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes;becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ and organizations;European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises;putting into practice the aforementioned solutions aimed at alleviating barriers and coordinating cancer research activities in the EU;dealing with legal and regulatory issues.
Solutions implemented through the ECI will lead to better coordination and collaboration throughout Europe, more efficient use of resources, an increase in Europe’s attractiveness to the biomedical industry and better quality of cancer research and education of health professionals.
The Project considered that European legal instruments currently available were inadequate for addressing many aspects of the barriers identified and for the implementation of effective, lasting solutions. Therefore, the legal environment that could shelter an idea like the ECI remains to be defined but should be done so as a priority. In this context, the initiative of the European Commission for a new legal entity for research infrastructure might be a step in this direction. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass: (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co-operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe; (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level. Another topic deserving immediate attention is the creation of a European database on cancer research projects and cancer research facilities.
Despite enormous progress in cancer control in Europe during the past two decades, there was an increase of 300,000 in the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
PMCID: PMC3234055  PMID: 22274749
4.  Patient safety in Dutch primary care: a study protocol 
Insight into the frequency and seriousness of potentially unsafe situations may be the first step towards improving patient safety. Most patient safety attention has been paid to patient safety in hospitals. However, in many countries, patients receive most of their healthcare in primary care settings. There is little concrete information about patient safety in primary care in the Netherlands. The overall aim of this study was to provide insight into the current patient safety issues in Dutch general practices, out-of-hours primary care centres, general dental practices, midwifery practices, and allied healthcare practices. The objectives of this study are: to determine the frequency, type, impact, and causes of incidents found in the records of primary care patients; to determine the type, impact, and causes of incidents reported by Dutch healthcare professionals; and to provide insight into patient safety management in primary care practices.
Design and methods
The study consists of three parts: a retrospective patient record study of 1,000 records per practice type was conducted to determine the frequency, type, impact, and causes of incidents found in the records of primary care patients (objective one); a prospective component concerns an incident-reporting study in each of the participating practices, during two successive weeks, to determine the type, impact, and causes of incidents reported by Dutch healthcare professionals (objective two); to provide insight into patient safety management in Dutch primary care practices (objective three), we surveyed organizational and cultural items relating to patient safety. We analysed the incidents found in the retrospective patient record study and the prospective incident-reporting study by type of incident, causes (Eindhoven Classification Model), actual harm (severity-of-outcome domain of the International Taxonomy of Medical Errors in Primary Care), and probability of severe harm or death.
To estimate the frequency of incidents was difficult. Much depended on the accuracy of the patient records and the professionals' consensus about which types of adverse events have to be recognized as incidents.
PMCID: PMC2914083  PMID: 20584268
5.  De-implementation of inappropriately tight control (of hypoglycemia) for health: protocol with an example of a research grant application 
Implementation of practice change is difficult and large scale implementation is particularly difficult. Among the challenges facing the healthcare system in general and healthcare organizations is the overuse of low value care. Improving medication safety also constitutes an attempt to reduce low value or potentially harmful care. Critical issues of overuse of low value practices and medication safety intersect in overtreatment of diabetes. Specifically, (over)intensive glycemic control increases hypoglycemia risk and morbidity without providing meaningful benefit. Our work indicates that among patients with diabetes who are at high risk for hypoglycemia, potential overtreatment is common. The Choosing Wisely Initiative to reduce low value care led by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation recommends not to treat most persons over 65 years of age with medications to reduce the A1c<7.5%. For most physicians this involves a change in practice. We will study the implementation of the Veterans Health Administration's Choosing Wisely Initiative (which includes hypoglycemic safety as a targeted condition) with three specific aims: (1) to assess the overall impact, both intended and unintended, of the Choosing Wisely Initiative to reduce overtreatment of diabetes in especially vulnerable populations; (2) to assess the impact of commitment to quality, teaching intensity, and safety culture on likelihood of overtreatment; and (3) to identify configurations of the implementation strategy, provider characteristics and organizational level factors that are associated with successful reduction of overtreatment rates by comparing high and low performers. Because focus on this initiative could have the unintended consequence of paying less attention to poor glycemic control (A1c>9%), we will also assess undertreatment.
We will take advantage of a natural experiment and use a Type III Hybrid Design that focuses on study of implementation while at the same time observing and gathering information on clinical interventions and outcomes. This mixed methods study will use longitudinal data and qualitative methods including Qualitative Comparative Analyses.
Our multi-paradigm approach to examining potential mechanisms to explain the variation in reduction of rates of overtreatment will contribute to a better understanding of implementation of national dissemination projects and multi-component interventions in complex systems.
PMCID: PMC4046046  PMID: 24886315
6.  Internet-Based Device-Assisted Remote Monitoring of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices 
Executive Summary
The objective of this Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) report was to conduct a systematic review of the available published evidence on the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted remote monitoring systems (RMSs) for therapeutic cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The MAS evidence-based review was performed to support public financing decisions.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major cause of fatalities in developed countries. In the United States almost half a million people die of SCD annually, resulting in more deaths than stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. In Canada each year more than 40,000 people die from a cardiovascular related cause; approximately half of these deaths are attributable to SCD.
Most cases of SCD occur in the general population typically in those without a known history of heart disease. Most SCDs are caused by cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm caused by malfunctions of the heart’s electrical system. Up to half of patients with significant heart failure (HF) also have advanced conduction abnormalities.
Cardiac arrhythmias are managed by a variety of drugs, ablative procedures, and therapeutic CIEDs. The range of CIEDs includes pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Bradycardia is the main indication for PMs and individuals at high risk for SCD are often treated by ICDs.
Heart failure (HF) is also a significant health problem and is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in those over 65 years of age. Patients with moderate to severe HF may also have cardiac arrhythmias, although the cause may be related more to heart pump or haemodynamic failure. The presence of HF, however, increases the risk of SCD five-fold, regardless of aetiology. Patients with HF who remain highly symptomatic despite optimal drug therapy are sometimes also treated with CRT devices.
With an increasing prevalence of age-related conditions such as chronic HF and the expanding indications for ICD therapy, the rate of ICD placement has been dramatically increasing. The appropriate indications for ICD placement, as well as the rate of ICD placement, are increasingly an issue. In the United States, after the introduction of expanded coverage of ICDs, a national ICD registry was created in 2005 to track these devices. A recent survey based on this national ICD registry reported that 22.5% (25,145) of patients had received a non-evidence based ICD and that these patients experienced significantly higher in-hospital mortality and post-procedural complications.
In addition to the increased ICD device placement and the upfront device costs, there is the need for lifelong follow-up or surveillance, placing a significant burden on patients and device clinics. In 2007, over 1.6 million CIEDs were implanted in Europe and the United States, which translates to over 5.5 million patient encounters per year if the recommended follow-up practices are considered. A safe and effective RMS could potentially improve the efficiency of long-term follow-up of patients and their CIEDs.
In addition to being therapeutic devices, CIEDs have extensive diagnostic abilities. All CIEDs can be interrogated and reprogrammed during an in-clinic visit using an inductive programming wand. Remote monitoring would allow patients to transmit information recorded in their devices from the comfort of their own homes. Currently most ICD devices also have the potential to be remotely monitored. Remote monitoring (RM) can be used to check system integrity, to alert on arrhythmic episodes, and to potentially replace in-clinic follow-ups and manage disease remotely. They do not currently have the capability of being reprogrammed remotely, although this feature is being tested in pilot settings.
Every RMS is specifically designed by a manufacturer for their cardiac implant devices. For Internet-based device-assisted RMSs, this customization includes details such as web application, multiplatform sensors, custom algorithms, programming information, and types and methods of alerting patients and/or physicians. The addition of peripherals for monitoring weight and pressure or communicating with patients through the onsite communicators also varies by manufacturer. Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs are intended to function as a surveillance system rather than an emergency system.
Health care providers therefore need to learn each application, and as more than one application may be used at one site, multiple applications may need to be reviewed for alarms. All RMSs deliver system integrity alerting; however, some systems seem to be better geared to fast arrhythmic alerting, whereas other systems appear to be more intended for remote follow-up or supplemental remote disease management. The different RMSs may therefore have different impacts on workflow organization because of their varying frequency of interrogation and methods of alerts. The integration of these proprietary RM web-based registry systems with hospital-based electronic health record systems has so far not been commonly implemented.
Currently there are 2 general types of RMSs: those that transmit device diagnostic information automatically and without patient assistance to secure Internet-based registry systems, and those that require patient assistance to transmit information. Both systems employ the use of preprogrammed alerts that are either transmitted automatically or at regular scheduled intervals to patients and/or physicians.
The current web applications, programming, and registry systems differ greatly between the manufacturers of transmitting cardiac devices. In Canada there are currently 4 manufacturers—Medtronic Inc., Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corp., and St Jude Medical Inc.—which have regulatory approval for remote transmitting CIEDs. Remote monitoring systems are proprietary to the manufacturer of the implant device. An RMS for one device will not work with another device, and the RMS may not work with all versions of the manufacturer’s devices.
All Internet-based device-assisted RMSs have common components. The implanted device is equipped with a micro-antenna that communicates with a small external device (at bedside or wearable) commonly known as the transmitter. Transmitters are able to interrogate programmed parameters and diagnostic data stored in the patients’ implant device. The information transfer to the communicator can occur at preset time intervals with the participation of the patient (waving a wand over the device) or it can be sent automatically (wirelessly) without their participation. The encrypted data are then uploaded to an Internet-based database on a secure central server. The data processing facilities at the central database, depending on the clinical urgency, can trigger an alert for the physician(s) that can be sent via email, fax, text message, or phone. The details are also posted on the secure website for viewing by the physician (or their delegate) at their convenience.
Research Questions
The research directions and specific research questions for this evidence review were as follows:
To identify the Internet-based device-assisted RMSs available for follow-up of patients with therapeutic CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To identify the potential risks, operational issues, or organizational issues related to Internet-based device-assisted RM for CIEDs.
To evaluate the safety, acceptability, and effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs compared to usual outpatient in-office monitoring strategies.
To evaluate the resource implications or budget impact of RMSs for CIEDs in Ontario, Canada.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The review included a systematic review of published scientific literature and consultations with experts and manufacturers of all 4 approved RMSs for CIEDs in Canada. Information on CIED cardiac implant clinics was also obtained from Provincial Programs, a division within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a mandate for cardiac implant specialty care. Various administrative databases and registries were used to outline the current clinical follow-up burden of CIEDs in Ontario. The provincial population-based ICD database developed and maintained by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) was used to review the current follow-up practices with Ontario patients implanted with ICD devices.
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on September 21, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from 1950 to September 2010. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for additional relevant literature until December 31, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search.
Inclusion Criteria
published between 1950 and September 2010;
English language full-reports and human studies;
original reports including clinical evaluations of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports including standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, cost, measures of health care utilization, morbidity, mortality, quality of life or patient satisfaction;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, cohort and controlled clinical studies.
Exclusion Criteria
non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials;
reports not involving standardized outcome events;
clinical reports not involving Internet-based device assisted RM systems for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports involving studies testing or validating algorithms without RM;
studies with small samples (<10 subjects).
Outcomes of Interest
The outcomes of interest included: technical outcomes, emergency department visits, complications, major adverse events, symptoms, hospital admissions, clinic visits (scheduled and/or unscheduled), survival, morbidity (disease progression, stroke, etc.), patient satisfaction, and quality of life.
Summary of Findings
The MAS evidence review was performed to review available evidence on Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs published until September 2010. The search identified 6 systematic reviews, 7 randomized controlled trials, and 19 reports for 16 cohort studies—3 of these being registry-based and 4 being multi-centered. The evidence is summarized in the 3 sections that follow.
1. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems of CIEDs for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Device Functioning
In total, 15 reports on 13 cohort studies involving investigations with 4 different RMSs for CIEDs in cardiology implant clinic groups were identified in the review. The 4 RMSs were: Care Link Network® (Medtronic Inc,, Minneapolis, MN, USA); Home Monitoring® (Biotronic, Berlin, Germany); House Call 11® (St Jude Medical Inc., St Pauls, MN, USA); and a manufacturer-independent RMS. Eight of these reports were with the Home Monitoring® RMS (12,949 patients), 3 were with the Care Link® RMS (167 patients), 1 was with the House Call 11® RMS (124 patients), and 1 was with a manufacturer-independent RMS (44 patients). All of the studies, except for 2 in the United States, (1 with Home Monitoring® and 1 with House Call 11®), were performed in European countries.
The RMSs in the studies were evaluated with different cardiac implant device populations: ICDs only (6 studies), ICD and CRT devices (3 studies), PM and ICD and CRT devices (4 studies), and PMs only (2 studies). The patient populations were predominately male (range, 52%–87%) in all studies, with mean ages ranging from 58 to 76 years. One study population was unique in that RMSs were evaluated for ICDs implanted solely for primary prevention in young patients (mean age, 44 years) with Brugada syndrome, which carries an inherited increased genetic risk for sudden heart attack in young adults.
Most of the cohort studies reported on the feasibility of RMSs in clinical settings with limited follow-up. In the short follow-up periods of the studies, the majority of the events were related to detection of medical events rather than system configuration or device abnormalities. The results of the studies are summarized below:
The interrogation of devices on the web platform, both for continuous and scheduled transmissions, was significantly quicker with remote follow-up, both for nurses and physicians.
In a case-control study focusing on a Brugada population–based registry with patients followed-up remotely, there were significantly fewer outpatient visits and greater detection of inappropriate shocks. One death occurred in the control group not followed remotely and post-mortem analysis indicated early signs of lead failure prior to the event.
Two studies examined the role of RMSs in following ICD leads under regulatory advisory in a European clinical setting and noted:
– Fewer inappropriate shocks were administered in the RM group.
– Urgent in-office interrogations and surgical revisions were performed within 12 days of remote alerts.
– No signs of lead fracture were detected at in-office follow-up; all were detected at remote follow-up.
Only 1 study reported evaluating quality of life in patients followed up remotely at 3 and 6 months; no values were reported.
Patient satisfaction was evaluated in 5 cohort studies, all in short term follow-up: 1 for the Home Monitoring® RMS, 3 for the Care Link® RMS, and 1 for the House Call 11® RMS.
– Patients reported receiving a sense of security from the transmitter, a good relationship with nurses and physicians, positive implications for their health, and satisfaction with RM and organization of services.
– Although patients reported that the system was easy to implement and required less than 10 minutes to transmit information, a variable proportion of patients (range, 9% 39%) reported that they needed the assistance of a caregiver for their transmission.
– The majority of patients would recommend RM to other ICD patients.
– Patients with hearing or other physical or mental conditions hindering the use of the system were excluded from studies, but the frequency of this was not reported.
Physician satisfaction was evaluated in 3 studies, all with the Care Link® RMS:
– Physicians reported an ease of use and high satisfaction with a generally short-term use of the RMS.
– Physicians reported being able to address the problems in unscheduled patient transmissions or physician initiated transmissions remotely, and were able to handle the majority of the troubleshooting calls remotely.
– Both nurses and physicians reported a high level of satisfaction with the web registry system.
2. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems in Heart Failure Patients for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Heart Failure Episodes
Remote follow-up of HF patients implanted with ICD or CRT devices, generally managed in specialized HF clinics, was evaluated in 3 cohort studies: 1 involved the Home Monitoring® RMS and 2 involved the Care Link® RMS. In these RMSs, in addition to the standard diagnostic features, the cardiac devices continuously assess other variables such as patient activity, mean heart rate, and heart rate variability. Intra-thoracic impedance, a proxy measure for lung fluid overload, was also measured in the Care Link® studies. The overall diagnostic performance of these measures cannot be evaluated, as the information was not reported for patients who did not experience intra-thoracic impedance threshold crossings or did not undergo interventions. The trial results involved descriptive information on transmissions and alerts in patients experiencing high morbidity and hospitalization in the short study periods.
3. Comparative Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems for CIEDs
Seven RCTs were identified evaluating RMSs for CIEDs: 2 were for PMs (1276 patients) and 5 were for ICD/CRT devices (3733 patients). Studies performed in the clinical setting in the United States involved both the Care Link® RMS and the Home Monitoring® RMS, whereas all studies performed in European countries involved only the Home Monitoring® RMS.
3A. Randomized Controlled Trials of Remote Monitoring Systems for Pacemakers
Two trials, both multicenter RCTs, were conducted in different countries with different RMSs and study objectives. The PREFER trial was a large trial (897 patients) performed in the United States examining the ability of Care Link®, an Internet-based remote PM interrogation system, to detect clinically actionable events (CAEs) sooner than the current in-office follow-up supplemented with transtelephonic monitoring transmissions, a limited form of remote device interrogation. The trial results are summarized below:
In the 375-day mean follow-up, 382 patients were identified with at least 1 CAE—111 patients in the control arm and 271 in the remote arm.
The event rate detected per patient for every type of CAE, except for loss of atrial capture, was higher in the remote arm than the control arm.
The median time to first detection of CAEs (4.9 vs. 6.3 months) was significantly shorter in the RMS group compared to the control group (P < 0.0001).
Additionally, only 2% (3/190) of the CAEs in the control arm were detected during a transtelephonic monitoring transmission (the rest were detected at in-office follow-ups), whereas 66% (446/676) of the CAEs were detected during remote interrogation.
The second study, the OEDIPE trial, was a smaller trial (379 patients) performed in France evaluating the ability of the Home Monitoring® RMS to shorten PM post-operative hospitalization while preserving the safety of conventional management of longer hospital stays.
Implementation and operationalization of the RMS was reported to be successful in 91% (346/379) of the patients and represented 8144 transmissions.
In the RM group 6.5% of patients failed to send messages (10 due to improper use of the transmitter, 2 with unmanageable stress). Of the 172 patients transmitting, 108 patients sent a total of 167 warnings during the trial, with a greater proportion of warnings being attributed to medical rather than technical causes.
Forty percent had no warning message transmission and among these, 6 patients experienced a major adverse event and 1 patient experienced a non-major adverse event. Of the 6 patients having a major adverse event, 5 contacted their physician.
The mean medical reaction time was faster in the RM group (6.5 ± 7.6 days vs. 11.4 ± 11.6 days).
The mean duration of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) for the RM group than the control group (3.2 ± 3.2 days vs. 4.8 ± 3.7 days).
Quality of life estimates by the SF-36 questionnaire were similar for the 2 groups at 1-month follow-up.
3B. Randomized Controlled Trials Evaluating Remote Monitoring Systems for ICD or CRT Devices
The 5 studies evaluating the impact of RMSs with ICD/CRT devices were conducted in the United States and in European countries and involved 2 RMSs—Care Link® and Home Monitoring ®. The objectives of the trials varied and 3 of the trials were smaller pilot investigations.
The first of the smaller studies (151 patients) evaluated patient satisfaction, achievement of patient outcomes, and the cost-effectiveness of the Care Link® RMS compared to quarterly in-office device interrogations with 1-year follow-up.
Individual outcomes such as hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly different between the study groups.
Except for a significantly higher detection of atrial fibrillation in the RM group, data on ICD detection and therapy were similar in the study groups.
Health-related quality of life evaluated by the EuroQoL at 6-month or 12-month follow-up was not different between study groups.
Patients were more satisfied with their ICD care in the clinic follow-up group than in the remote follow-up group at 6-month follow-up, but were equally satisfied at 12- month follow-up.
The second small pilot trial (20 patients) examined the impact of RM follow-up with the House Call 11® system on work schedules and cost savings in patients randomized to 2 study arms varying in the degree of remote follow-up.
The total time including device interrogation, transmission time, data analysis, and physician time required was significantly shorter for the RM follow-up group.
The in-clinic waiting time was eliminated for patients in the RM follow-up group.
The physician talk time was significantly reduced in the RM follow-up group (P < 0.05).
The time for the actual device interrogation did not differ in the study groups.
The third small trial (115 patients) examined the impact of RM with the Home Monitoring® system compared to scheduled trimonthly in-clinic visits on the number of unplanned visits, total costs, health-related quality of life (SF-36), and overall mortality.
There was a 63.2% reduction in in-office visits in the RM group.
Hospitalizations or overall mortality (values not stated) were not significantly different between the study groups.
Patient-induced visits were higher in the RM group than the in-clinic follow-up group.
The TRUST Trial
The TRUST trial was a large multicenter RCT conducted at 102 centers in the United States involving the Home Monitoring® RMS for ICD devices for 1450 patients. The primary objectives of the trial were to determine if remote follow-up could be safely substituted for in-office clinic follow-up (3 in-office visits replaced) and still enable earlier physician detection of clinically actionable events.
Adherence to the protocol follow-up schedule was significantly higher in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (93.5% vs. 88.7%, P < 0.001).
Actionability of trimonthly scheduled checks was low (6.6%) in both study groups. Overall, actionable causes were reprogramming (76.2%), medication changes (24.8%), and lead/system revisions (4%), and these were not different between the 2 study groups.
The overall mean number of in-clinic and hospital visits was significantly lower in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (2.1 per patient-year vs. 3.8 per patient-year, P < 0.001), representing a 45% visit reduction at 12 months.
The median time from onset of first arrhythmia to physician evaluation was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group than in the in-office follow-up group for all arrhythmias (1 day vs. 35.5 days).
The median time to detect clinically asymptomatic arrhythmia events—atrial fibrillation (AF), ventricular fibrillation (VF), ventricular tachycardia (VT), and supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)—was also significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group compared to the in-office follow-up group (1 day vs. 41.5 days) and was significantly quicker for each of the clinical arrhythmia events—AF (5.5 days vs. 40 days), VT (1 day vs. 28 days), VF (1 day vs. 36 days), and SVT (2 days vs. 39 days).
System-related problems occurred infrequently in both groups—in 1.5% of patients (14/908) in the RM group and in 0.7% of patients (3/432) in the in-office follow-up group.
The overall adverse event rate over 12 months was not significantly different between the 2 groups and individual adverse events were also not significantly different between the RM group and the in-office follow-up group: death (3.4% vs. 4.9%), stroke (0.3% vs. 1.2%), and surgical intervention (6.6% vs. 4.9%), respectively.
The 12-month cumulative survival was 96.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.5%–97.6%) in the RM group and 94.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 91.8%–96.6%) in the in-office follow-up group, and was not significantly different between the 2 groups (P = 0.174).
The CONNECT trial, another major multicenter RCT, involved the Care Link® RMS for ICD/CRT devices in a15-month follow-up study of 1,997 patients at 133 sites in the United States. The primary objective of the trial was to determine whether automatically transmitted physician alerts decreased the time from the occurrence of clinically relevant events to medical decisions. The trial results are summarized below:
Of the 575 clinical alerts sent in the study, 246 did not trigger an automatic physician alert. Transmission failures were related to technical issues such as the alert not being programmed or not being reset, and/or a variety of patient factors such as not being at home and the monitor not being plugged in or set up.
The overall mean time from the clinically relevant event to the clinical decision was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) by 17.4 days in the remote follow-up group (4.6 days for 172 patients) than the in-office follow-up group (22 days for 145 patients).
– The median time to a clinical decision was shorter in the remote follow-up group than in the in-office follow-up group for an AT/AF burden greater than or equal to 12 hours (3 days vs. 24 days) and a fast VF rate greater than or equal to 120 beats per minute (4 days vs. 23 days).
Although infrequent, similar low numbers of events involving low battery and VF detection/therapy turned off were noted in both groups. More alerts, however, were noted for out-of-range lead impedance in the RM group (18 vs. 6 patients), and the time to detect these critical events was significantly shorter in the RM group (same day vs. 17 days).
Total in-office clinic visits were reduced by 38% from 6.27 visits per patient-year in the in-office follow-up group to 3.29 visits per patient-year in the remote follow-up group.
Health care utilization visits (N = 6,227) that included cardiovascular-related hospitalization, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly higher in the remote follow-up group.
The overall mean length of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P = 0.002) for those in the remote follow-up group (3.3 days vs. 4.0 days) and was shorter both for patients with ICD (3.0 days vs. 3.6 days) and CRT (3.8 days vs. 4.7 days) implants.
The mortality rate between the study arms was not significantly different between the follow-up groups for the ICDs (P = 0.31) or the CRT devices with defribillator (P = 0.46).
There is limited clinical trial information on the effectiveness of RMSs for PMs. However, for RMSs for ICD devices, multiple cohort studies and 2 large multicenter RCTs demonstrated feasibility and significant reductions in in-office clinic follow-ups with RMSs in the first year post implantation. The detection rates of clinically significant events (and asymptomatic events) were higher, and the time to a clinical decision for these events was significantly shorter, in the remote follow-up groups than in the in-office follow-up groups. The earlier detection of clinical events in the remote follow-up groups, however, was not associated with lower morbidity or mortality rates in the 1-year follow-up. The substitution of almost all the first year in-office clinic follow-ups with RM was also not associated with an increased health care utilization such as emergency department visits or hospitalizations.
The follow-up in the trials was generally short-term, up to 1 year, and was a more limited assessment of potential longer term device/lead integrity complications or issues. None of the studies compared the different RMSs, particularly the different RMSs involving patient-scheduled transmissions or automatic transmissions. Patients’ acceptance of and satisfaction with RM were reported to be high, but the impact of RM on patients’ health-related quality of life, particularly the psychological aspects, was not evaluated thoroughly. Patients who are not technologically competent, having hearing or other physical/mental impairments, were identified as potentially disadvantaged with remote surveillance. Cohort studies consistently identified subgroups of patients who preferred in-office follow-up. The evaluation of costs and workflow impact to the health care system were evaluated in European or American clinical settings, and only in a limited way.
Internet-based device-assisted RMSs involve a new approach to monitoring patients, their disease progression, and their CIEDs. Remote monitoring also has the potential to improve the current postmarket surveillance systems of evolving CIEDs and their ongoing hardware and software modifications. At this point, however, there is insufficient information to evaluate the overall impact to the health care system, although the time saving and convenience to patients and physicians associated with a substitution of in-office follow-up by RM is more certain. The broader issues surrounding infrastructure, impacts on existing clinical care systems, and regulatory concerns need to be considered for the implementation of Internet-based RMSs in jurisdictions involving different clinical practices.
PMCID: PMC3377571  PMID: 23074419
7.  The web of silence: a qualitative case study of early intervention and support for healthcare workers with mental ill-health 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:138.
There is a high rate of stress and mental illness among healthcare workers, yet many continue to work despite symptoms that affect their performance. Workers with mental health issues are typically ostracized and do not get the support that they need. If issues are not addressed, however, they could become worse and compromise the health and safety, not only of the worker, but his/her colleagues and patients. Early identification and support can improve work outcomes and facilitate recovery, but more information is needed about how to facilitate this process in the context of healthcare work. The purpose of this study was to explore the key individual and organizational forces that shape early intervention and support for healthcare workers who are struggling with mental health issues, and to identify barriers and opportunities for change.
A qualitative, case study in a large, urban healthcare organization was conducted in order to explore the perceptions and experiences of employees across the organization. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight healthcare workers who had experienced mental health issues at work as well as eight workplace stakeholders who interacted with workers who were struggling (managers, coworkers, union leaders). An online survey was completed by an additional 67 employees. Analysis of the interviews and surveys was guided by a process of interpretive description to identify key barriers to early intervention and support.
There were many reports of silence and inaction in response to employee mental health issues. Uncertainty in identifying mental health problems, stigma regarding mental ill health, a discourse of professional competence, social tensions, workload pressures, confidentiality expectations and lack of timely access to mental health supports were key forces in preventing employees from getting the help that they needed. Although there were a few exceptions, the overall study findings point to many barriers to supporting employees with mental health issues.
In order to address the complex knowledge, attitudinal, interpersonal and organizational barriers to action, a multi-layered knowledge translation strategy is needed, that considers not only mental health literacy and anti-stigma interventions, but addresses the unique context of the work environment that can act as a barrier to change.
PMCID: PMC3929153  PMID: 24507543
Healthcare workers; Workplace mental health; Stigma; Organizational research; Early intervention; Mental illness; Qualitative methods
8.  Ethical and legal implications of the risks of medical tourism for patients: a qualitative study of Canadian health and safety representatives’ perspectives 
BMJ Open  2013;3(2):e002302.
Medical tourism involves patients’ intentional travel to privately obtain medical care in another country. Empirical evidence regarding health and safety risks facing medical tourists is limited. Consideration of this issue is dominated by speculation and lacks meaningful input from people with specific expertise in patient health and safety. We consulted with patient health and safety experts in the Canadian province of British Columbia to explore their views concerning risks that medical tourists may be exposed to. Herein, we report on the findings, linking them to existing ethical and legal issues associated with medical tourism.
We held a focus group in September 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia with professionals representing different domains of patient health and safety expertise. The focus group was transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Seven professionals representing the domains of tissue banking, blood safety, health records, organ transplantation, dental care, clinical ethics and infection control participated.
Five dominant health and safety risks for outbound medical tourists were identified by participants: (1) complications; (2) specific concerns regarding organ transplantation; (3) transmission of antibiotic-resistant organisms; (4) (dis)continuity of medical documentation and (5) (un)informed decision-making.
Concern was expressed that medical tourism might have unintended and undesired effects upon patients’ home healthcare systems. The individual choices of medical tourists could have significant public consequences if healthcare facilities in their home countries must expend resources treating postoperative complications. Participants also expressed concern that medical tourists returning home with infections, particularly antibiotic-resistant infections, could place others at risk of exposure to infections that are refractory to standard treatment regimens and thereby pose significant public health risks.
PMCID: PMC3586128  PMID: 23396563
Qualitative Research
9.  The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Health Care: A Systematic Overview 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000387.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report the findings of their systematic overview that assessed the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care.
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital solutions to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Implementations of transformative eHealth technologies are underway globally, often at very considerable cost. In order to assess the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care, and to inform policy decisions on eHealth deployments, we undertook a systematic review of systematic reviews assessing the effectiveness and consequences of various eHealth technologies on the quality and safety of care.
Methods and Findings
We developed novel search strategies, conceptual maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions, and then systematically identified, scrutinised, and synthesised the systematic review literature. Major biomedical databases were searched to identify systematic reviews published between 1997 and 2010. Related theoretical, methodological, and technical material was also reviewed. We identified 53 systematic reviews that focused on assessing the impact of eHealth interventions on the quality and/or safety of health care and 55 supplementary systematic reviews providing relevant supportive information. This systematic review literature was found to be generally of substandard quality with regards to methodology, reporting, and utility. We thematically categorised eHealth technologies into three main areas: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. We found that despite support from policymakers, there was relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made in relation to these technologies. Whether the success of those relatively few solutions identified to improve quality and safety would continue if these were deployed beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed, has yet to be established. Importantly, best practice guidelines in effective development and deployment strategies are lacking.
There is a large gap between the postulated and empirically demonstrated benefits of eHealth technologies. In addition, there is a lack of robust research on the risks of implementing these technologies and their cost-effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated, despite being frequently promoted by policymakers and “techno-enthusiasts” as if this was a given. In the light of the paucity of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, it is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle. Such evaluation should be characterised by careful attention to socio-technical factors to maximise the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital health care solutions, often referred to as eHealth—the use of information and communication technologies—to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Often accompanied by large costs, any large-scale expenditure on eHealth—such as electronic health records, picture archiving and communication systems, ePrescribing, associated computerized provider order entry systems, and computerized decision support systems—has tended to be justified on the grounds that these are efficient and cost-effective means for improving health care. In 2005, the World Health Assembly passed an eHealth resolution (WHA 58.28) that acknowledged, “eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research,” and urged member states to develop and implement eHealth technologies. Since then, implementing eHealth technologies has become a main priority for many countries. For example, England has invested at least £12.8 billion in a National Programme for Information Technology for the National Health Service, and the Obama administration in the United States has committed to a US$38 billion eHealth investment in health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite the wide endorsement of and support for eHealth, the scientific basis of its benefits—which are repeatedly made and often uncritically accepted—remains to be firmly established. A robust evidence-based perspective on the advantages on eHealth could help to suggest priority areas that have the greatest potential for benefit to patients and also to inform international eHealth deliberations on costs. Therefore, in order to better inform the international community, the authors systematically reviewed the published systematic review literature on eHealth technologies and evaluated the impact of these technologies on the quality and safety of health care delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers divided eHealth technologies into three main categories: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. Then, implementing methods based on those developed by the Cochrane Collaboration and the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Programme, the researchers used detailed search strategies and maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions to identify relevant systematic reviews (and related theoretical, methodological, and technical material) published between 1997 and 2010. Using these techniques, the researchers retrieved a total of 46,349 references from which they identified 108 reviews. The 53 reviews that the researchers finally selected (and critically reviewed) provided the main evidence base for assessing the impact of eHealth technologies in the three categories selected.
In their systematic review of systematic reviews, the researchers included electronic health records and picture archiving communications systems in their evaluation of category 1, computerized provider (or physician) order entry and e-prescribing in category 2, and all clinical information systems that, when used in the context of eHealth technologies, integrate clinical and demographic patient information to support clinician decision making in category 3.
The researchers found that many of the clinical claims made about the most commonly used eHealth technologies were not substantiated by empirical evidence. The evidence base in support of eHealth technologies was weak and inconsistent and importantly, there was insubstantial evidence to support the cost-effectiveness of these technologies. For example, the researchers only found limited evidence that some of the many presumed benefits could be realized; importantly, they also found some evidence that introducing these new technologies may on occasions also generate new risks such as prescribers becoming over-reliant on clinical decision support for e-prescribing, or overestimate its functionality, resulting in decreased practitioner performance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers found that despite the wide support for eHealth technologies and the frequently made claims by policy makers when constructing business cases to raise funds for large-scale eHealth projects, there is as yet relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made about eHealth technologies. In addition, even for the eHealth technology tools that have proven to be successful, there is little evidence to show that such tools would continue to be successful beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed. Therefore, in light of the lack of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, the authors say that future eHealth technologies should be evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle, and include socio-technical factors to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption in a given context. Furthermore, it is equally important that eHealth projects that have already been commissioned are subject to rigorous, multidisciplinary, and independent evaluation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The authors' broader study is: Car J, Black A, Anandan C, Cresswell K, Pagliari C, McKinstry B, et al. (2008) The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Healthcare. Available at:
More information is available on the World Health Assembly eHealth resolution
The World Health Organization provides information at the Global Observatory on eHealth, as well as a global insight into eHealth developments
The European Commission provides Information on eHealth in Europe and some examples of good eHealth practice
More information is provided on NHS Connecting for Health
PMCID: PMC3022523  PMID: 21267058
10.  Barriers and Facilitators to Implementing Cancer Survivorship Care Plans 
Oncology nursing forum  2013;40(6):575-580.
To evaluate the process of survivorship care plan (SCP) completion and to survey oncology staff and primary care physicians (PCPs) regarding challenges of implementing SCPs.
Descriptive pilot study.
Two facilities in Vermont, an urban academic medical center and a rural community academic cancer center.
17 oncology clinical staff created SCPs, 39 PCPs completed surveys, and 58 patients (breast or colorectal cancer) participated in a telephone survey.
Using Journey Forward tools, SCPs were created and presented to patients. PCPs received the SCP with a survey assessing its usefulness and barriers to delivery. Oncology staff were interviewed to assess perceived challenges and benefits of SCPs. Qualitative and quantitative data were used to identify challenges to the development and implementation process as well as patient perceptions of the SCP visit.
Main Research Variables
SCP, healthcare provider perception of barriers to completion and implementation, and patient perception of SCP visit.
Oncology staff cited the time required to obtain information for SCPs as a challenge. Completing SCPs 3–6 months after treatment ended was optimal. All participants felt advanced practice professionals should complete and review SCPs with patients. The most common challenge for PCPs to implement SCP recommendations was insufficient knowledge of cancer survivor issues. Most patients found the care plan visit very useful, particularly within six months of diagnosis.
Creation time may be a barrier to widespread SCP implementation. Cancer survivors find SCPs useful, but PCPs feel insufficient knowledge of cancer survivor issues is a barrier to providing best follow-up care. Incorporating SCPs in electronic medical records may facilitate patient identification, appropriate staff scheduling, and timely SCP creation.
Implications for Nursing
Oncology nurse practitioners are well positioned to create and deliver SCPs, transitioning patients from oncology care to a PCP in a shared-care model of optimal wellness. Institution support for the time needed for SCP creation and review is imperative for sustaining this initiative.
Knowledge Translation
Accessing complete medical records is an obstacle for completing SCPs. A 3–6 month window to develop and deliver SCPs may be ideal. PCPs perceive insufficient knowledge of cancer survivor issues as a barrier to providing appropriate follow-up care.
PMCID: PMC4501016  PMID: 24161636
11.  Health Care Market Trends and the Evolution of Hospitalist Use and Roles 
To describe local health care market dynamics that support increasing use of hospitalists' services and changes in their roles.
Semistructured interviews in 12 randomly selected, nationally representative communities in the Community Tracking Study conducted in 2002–2003. Interviews were coded in qualitative data analysis software. We identified patterns and themes within and across study sites, and verified conclusions by triangulating responses from different respondent types, examining outliers, searching for corroborating or disconfirming evidence, and testing rival explanations.
Medical groups, hospitals, and health plans in 12 representative communities.
One hundred seven purposively sampled executives at the 3–4 largest medical groups, hospitals, and health plans in each community: medical directors and medical staff presidents; chief executive and managing officers; executives responsible for contracting, physician networks, hospital patient safety, patient care services, planning, and marketing; and local medical and hospital association leaders.
We asked plan and hospital respondents about their competitive strategies, including their experience with cost pressures, hospital patient flow problems, and hospital patient safety efforts. We asked all respondents about changes in their local market over the past 2 years generally, and specifically: hospitals' and physicians' responses to market pressures; payment arrangements hospitals and physicians had with private health plans; and physicians' relationships with plans and hospitals. We drew on data on hospitalist practice structures, employment relationships, and productivity/compensation from the Society for Hospital Medicine's 2002 membership survey. Factors that fomented the creation of the hospital medicine movement persist, including cost pressures and primary care physicians' decreasing inpatient volume. But emerging influences made hospitalists even more attractive, including worsening problems with patient flow in hospitals, rising malpractice costs, and the growing national focus on patient safety. Local market forces resulted in new hospitalist roles and program structures, regarding which organizations sponsored hospitalist programs, employed them, and the functions they served in hospitals.
These findings have important implications for patients, hospitalists, and their employers. Hospitalists may require changes in education and training, develop competing goals and priorities, and face new issues in their relationships with health plans, hospitals, and other physicians.
PMCID: PMC1490059  PMID: 15836541
hospitalists; hospital medicine; health care markets; patient safety
12.  Patient Safety Perceptions of Primary Care Providers after Implementation of an Electronic Medical Record System 
Increasing the use of electronic medical records (EMR) has been suggested as an important strategy for improving healthcare safety.
To sequentially measure, evaluate, and respond to safety culture and practice safety concerns following EMR implementation.
Safety culture was assessed using a validated tool (Safety Attitudes Questionnaire; SAQ), immediately following EMR implementation (T1) and at 1.5 (T2) and 2.5 (T3) years post-implementation. The SAQ was supplemented with a practice-specific assessment tool to identify safety needs and barriers.
A large medical group practice with a primary care core of 17–18 practices, staffed by clinicians in family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine.
Survey results were used to define and respond to areas of need between assessments with system changes and educational programs.
Change in safety culture over time; perceived impact of EMR on practice.
Responses were received from 103 of 123 primary care providers in T1 (83.7 % response rate), 122 of 143 in T2 (85.3 %) and 142 of 181 in T3 (78.5 %). Safety culture improved over this period, with statistically significant improvement in all domains except for stress recognition. Time constraints, communications and patient adherence were perceived to be the most important safety issues. The majority of respondents in both T2 (77.9 %) and T3 (85.4 %) surveys agreed that the EMR improved their ability to provide care more safely.
Implementation of an EMR in a large primary care practice required redesign of many organizational processes, and was associated with improvements in safety culture. Most primary care providers agreed that the EMR allowed them to provide care more safely.
PMCID: PMC3614133  PMID: 22887020
electronic medical records; EMR; safety culture; primary care; safety attitudes questionnaire
13.  Towards an International Classification for Patient Safety: the conceptual framework 
Global advances in patient safety have been hampered by the lack of a uniform classification of patient safety concepts. This is a significant barrier to developing strategies to reduce risk, performing evidence-based research and evaluating existing healthcare policies relevant to patient safety. Since 2005, the World Health Organization's World Alliance for Patient Safety has undertaken the Project to Develop an International Classification for Patient Safety (ICPS) to devise a classification which transforms patient safety information collected from disparate systems into a common format to facilitate aggregation, analysis and learning across disciplines, borders and time. A drafting group, comprised of experts from the fields of patient safety, classification theory, health informatics, consumer/patient advocacy, law and medicine, identified and defined key patient safety concepts and developed an internationally agreed conceptual framework for the ICPS based upon existing patient safety classifications. The conceptual framework was iteratively improved through technical expert meetings and a two-stage web-based modified Delphi survey of over 250 international experts. This work culminated in a conceptual framework consisting of ten high level classes: incident type, patient outcomes, patient characteristics, incident characteristics, contributing factors/hazards, organizational outcomes, detection, mitigating factors, ameliorating actions and actions taken to reduce risk. While the framework for the ICPS is in place, several challenges remain. Concepts need to be defined, guidance for using the classification needs to be provided, and further real-world testing needs to occur to progressively refine the ICPS to ensure it is fit for purpose.
PMCID: PMC2638753  PMID: 19147595
classification; patient safety; incident; conceptual framework
14.  Feasibility and Cost-Effectiveness of Treating Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis: A Cohort Study in the Philippines 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e352.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is an important global health problem, and a control strategy known as DOTS-Plus has existed since 1999. However, evidence regarding the feasibility, effectiveness, cost, and cost-effectiveness of DOTS-Plus is still limited.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We evaluated the feasibility, effectiveness, cost, and cost-effectiveness of a DOTS-Plus pilot project established at Makati Medical Center in Manila, the Philippines, in 1999. Patients with MDR-TB are treated with regimens, including first- and second-line drugs, tailored to their drug susceptibility pattern (i.e., individualised treatment). We considered the cohort enrolled between April 1999 and March 2002. During this three-year period, 118 patients were enrolled in the project; 117 were considered in the analysis. Seventy-one patients (61%) were cured, 12 (10%) failed treatment, 18 (15%) died, and 16 (14%) defaulted. The average cost per patient treated was US$3,355 from the perspective of the health system, of which US$1,557 was for drugs, and US$837 from the perspective of patients. The mean cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) gained by the DOTS-Plus project was US$242 (range US$85 to US$426).
Treatment of patients with MDR-TB using the DOTS-Plus strategy and individualised drug regimens can be feasible, comparatively effective, and cost-effective in low- and middle-income countries.
Evaluation of 117 patients enrolled in a DOTS-Plus pilot project in the Philippines showed that in this setting the strategy is feasible.
Editors' Summary
Tuberculosis (TB) causes the death of some 2 million people each year. An estimated one in three people worldwide are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes the disease. Because single-drug treatment leads to treatment failure and antibiotic resistance, treatment for active TB is complicated, usually involving four different antibiotics, at least two of which are continued for six months or more. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a specific strategy (DOTS) for diagnosing and treating TB (see Web link below).
The DOTS approach includes standard regimens of first-line drugs which cure about 90% of patients with drug-susceptible TB, and which cost as little as US$10 per patient. Unfortunately, TB resistance to at least two of the most effective DOTS drugs has developed at sites in both industrialized and developing countries, causing approximately 460,000 cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) per year. Second-line antibiotics, which tend to be more expensive or more difficult to take, can effectively treat many cases of MDR-TB. “DOTS-Plus” programmes, which use combinations of first- and second-line drugs to treat MDR-TB, are therefore becoming increasingly important in controlling TB worldwide. A recent study found DOTS-Plus strategies to be cost-effective in Peru, but cure rates of MDR-TB were relatively low.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because the use of second-line antibiotics is costly and the treatment of MDR-TB has a higher failure rate than that of fully drug-susceptible TB, policymakers responsible for allocation of limited healthcare resources need information on how well DOTS-Plus programmes work and how much they cost to operate. This study was undertaken to assess the feasibility, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of a DOTS-Plus project in the Philippines, a lower middle–income country with a high rate of TB and approximately 25,000 cases of MDR-TB.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find? 
The researchers reported on a DOTS-Plus pilot project at Makati Medical Center in Manila, analyzing information from 118 patients enrolled in the project between 1999 and 2002. The diagnosis of MDR-TB was based on laboratory culture and antibiotic resistance testing of specimens from patients who had continued symptoms of TB following DOTS treatment, or other evidence of possible MDR-TB. Patients were treated with five-drug combinations individually selected based on resistance testing results, and administered under direct observation. After cultures had remained consistently negative for six months, patients were switched to a four-drug regimen with intermittent clinic observation until cultures remained negative for at least 18 months.
Cost-effectiveness was assessed by comparing the costs and effects of the project to the costs and effects that would have applied in the absence of the project, namely, no treatment of MDR-TB (except what patients could have purchased privately), or standard first-line DOTS treatment (which would not cure the majority of patients with MDR-TB, and is associated with a high chance of relapse in those who do appear cured). Costs of the DOTS-Plus project were based on expenditure records, project records, and interviews with staff, patients, and funding agencies. Effects of the project were based on treatment outcomes observed among enrolled patients, as well as on data on long-term outcomes among patients treated for MDR-TB in the US who were followed for up to ten years. Treatment costs for the situation in which no DOTS-Plus project exists were estimated using national data reported to WHO, as well as questionnaires administered to local patients in whom DOTS treatment had failed. Treatment outcomes where DOTS-Plus is not available were estimated from studies done in other TB-affected countries.
The researchers found that the cure rate of MDR-TB in this project was 61%. The cost per patient treated was US$4,192. They also calculated that the cost-effectiveness of the DOTS-Plus strategy was US$242 per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) gained, of which US$179 was paid by the healthcare system.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The cure rate for MDR-TB in this project compares favourably to rates in other resource-limited settings where second-line TB drugs are used, and is much higher than in areas where these drugs are not available. From the standpoint of efficacy and patient well-being, then, this study supports the necessity of DOTS-Plus treatment. In purely economic terms, the cost of US$200–US$250 per DALY gained is cost-effective in comparison with other healthcare interventions. Specifically, because the gross national income per person in the Philippines is US$1,080, someone who can return to work following MDR-TB treatment costing US$250 per year gained of working life will provide work that is worth four times more, on average, than the cost of the treatment.
Although this study provides encouraging confirmation that DOTS-Plus programmes can be effective and cost-effective in a resource-limited setting, these findings are subject to several limitations. First, the data used to estimate treatment outcomes and the costs associated with chronic MDR-TB when DOTS-Plus treatment is not available were limited. Also, the pilot project in this study included only 118 of 171 eligible patients, leaving open the possibility that the other 53 patients might have had different outcomes. In addition, the long-term relapse rate in the treated patients is unknown. Finally, the conclusion that one model programme is effective does not mean that other programmes will do well under less favourable circumstances. Nonetheless, as MDR-TB continues to spread in the developing world, a good example is good news. A Perspective by Paul Garner and colleagues in this issue of PLoS Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030350) discusses the study further.
Additional Information. 
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Basic information about tuberculosis can be found on the Web site of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
The Web site of the World Health Organization's Stop TB department outlines both the DOTS and DOTS-Plus strategies
TB Alert, a UK-based charity that promotes TB awareness worldwide, has information on TB in several European, African, and Asian languages
PMCID: PMC1564168  PMID: 16968123
15.  The role of the African-American physician in reducing traffic-related injury and death among African Americans: consensus report of the National Medical Association. 
ISSUE: Traffic-related injuries and fatalities disproportionately affect the African American community. These high rates of traffic-related death and injury among African Americans manifest in multiple areas of traffic safety, including: Failure to use seat belts and child restraints. High incidence of alcohol-impaired driving. Failure to follow child passenger and seat belt safety laws and recommendations. High rates of pedestrian accidents, ofen brought on by impairments of drivers and/or pedestrians. Research indicates that national public information campaigns, with general messages only slightly modified for African American audiences, have not been culturally appropriate or effective in changing traffic safety behavior. In addition, traditional distribution mechanisms for these messages have not effectively reached the target population. Evidence suggests that in the African American community, there is a pervasive lack of knowledge of the devastating impact of traffic-related accidents on the overall health status of the community. This lack of information has resulted in a tragic cycle, in which parents fail to model safe operation of motor vehicles, and generation after generation copy this behavior, increasing the community's vulnerability to serious injuries and untimely deaths. This trend toward improper traffic safety habits among African Americans persists despite federal, state and local laws to enforce and promote sound traffic safety practices. OBJECTIVE: To study the existence of disparities in traffic-related injury and death among African Americans and to determine what kinds of traffic safety messages and campaigns will be effective in encouraging African Americans to respond to safety laws in sufficient numbers to reduce the disproportionately high rate of injury and death. Traffic safety issues were examined to effectively recommend policy, address barriers, best practices, and intervention strategies for the National Medical Association, its physician members, their patients, and their communities. CONSENSUS PROCESS: A literature review, driven by research instruments from numerous organizations included reports and materials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), American Academy of Pediatrics, National Committee for Injury Prevention and Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Both the Meharry Medical College report, Achieving a Credible Health and Safety Approach to Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African-Americans, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans: A Report to the Nation, provided substantial background for the panel. More than 60 pieces of traffic safety literature have been examined to date. Based on the literature review, a short list of the most relevant issues affecting African Americans and traffic safety was devised. It includes: The disproportionately high rate of traffic-related injury and death among African Americans. The cost in health, monetary costs and other associated costs of traffic safety accidents and injuries. The number of traffic-related injuries and deaths that could be prevented if more African Americans observed good traffic safety practices. Barriers to practicing good traffic safety habits among African Americans. Failure of laws and public information campaigns to influence improved traffic safety practices among African Americans sufficient to reduce disparities in traffic-related injury and death. In July 2001, NMA convened a consensus panel of experts in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to review a briefing document summarizing the most salient traffic safety issues among African Americans. The panel elaborated on key issues, including existing policy and standards for the use of child restraint devices to secure infants and toddlers, existing data regarding disparities in traffic-related injury and death among African Americans, and the cultural, age and developmental appropriateness of existing safety campaigns. SUMMARY: Public information campaigns have successfully improved traffic safety practices among the general public but in large part have been unsuccessful among minority populations-including African Americans. This may be due to: A failure to use techniques and messages that are culturally sensitive to African Americans. Campaigns that have targeted geographic and social centers where African Americans are not broadly present. Lack of awareness of the disproportionate effect motor vehicle crashes are having on African Americans. Scientifically based, culturally appropriate intervention strategies need to be devised and implemented by African American institutions and organizations to improve traffic safety practices and reduce the high rate of traffic-related injury and deaths among African Americans.
PMCID: PMC2594128  PMID: 11858225
16.  Patient-Safety-Related Hospital Deaths in England: Thematic Analysis of Incidents Reported to a National Database, 2010–2012 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001667.
Sukhmeet Panesar and colleagues classified reports of patient-safety-related hospital deaths in England to identify patterns of cases where improvements might be possible.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Hospital mortality is increasingly being regarded as a key indicator of patient safety, yet methodologies for assessing mortality are frequently contested and seldom point directly to areas of risk and solutions. The aim of our study was to classify reports of deaths due to unsafe care into broad areas of systemic failure capable of being addressed by stronger policies, procedures, and practices. The deaths were reported to a patient safety incident reporting system after mandatory reporting of such incidents was introduced.
Methods and Findings
The UK National Health Service database was searched for incidents resulting in a reported death of an adult over the period of the study. The study population comprised 2,010 incidents involving patients aged 16 y and over in acute hospital settings. Each incident report was reviewed by two of the authors, and, by scrutinising the structured information together with the free text, a main reason for the harm was identified and recorded as one of 18 incident types. These incident types were then aggregated into six areas of apparent systemic failure: mismanagement of deterioration (35%), failure of prevention (26%), deficient checking and oversight (11%), dysfunctional patient flow (10%), equipment-related errors (6%), and other (12%). The most common incident types were failure to act on or recognise deterioration (23%), inpatient falls (10%), healthcare-associated infections (10%), unexpected per-operative death (6%), and poor or inadequate handover (5%). Analysis of these 2,010 fatal incidents reveals patterns of issues that point to actionable areas for improvement.
Our approach demonstrates the potential utility of patient safety incident reports in identifying areas of service failure and highlights opportunities for corrective action to save lives.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being admitted to the hospital is worrying for patients and for their relatives. Will the patient recover or die in the hospital? Some seriously ill patients will inevitably die, but in an ideal world, no one should die in the hospital because of inadequate or unsafe care (an avoidable death). No one should die, for example, because healthcare professionals fail to act on signs that indicate a decline in a patient's clinical condition. Hospital mortality (death) is often regarded as a key indicator of patient safety in hospitals, and death rate indicators such as the “hospital standardized mortality ratio” (the ratio of the actual number of acute in-hospital deaths to the expected number of in-hospital deaths) are widely used to monitor and improve hospital safety standards. In England, for example, a 2012 report that included this measure as an indicator of hospital performance led to headlines of “worryingly high” hospital death rates and to a review of the quality of care in the hospitals with the highest death rates.
Why Was This Study Done?
Hospital standardized mortality ratios and other measures of in-patient mortality can be misleading because they can, for example, reflect the burden of disease near the hospital rather than the hospital's quality of care or safety levels. Moreover, comparative data on hospital mortality rates are of limited value in identifying areas of risk to patients or solutions to the problem of avoidable deaths. In this study, to identify areas of service failure amenable to improvement through strengthened clinical policies, procedures, and practices, the researchers undertake a thematic analysis of deaths in hospitals in England that were reported by healthcare staff to a mandatory patient-safety-related incident reporting system. Since 2004, staff in the UK National Health Service (the NHS comprises the publicly funded healthcare systems in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) have been encouraged to report any unintended or unexpected incident in which they believe a patient's safety was compromised. Since June 2010, it has been mandatory for staff in England and Wales to report deaths due to patient-safety-related incidents. A thematic analysis examines patterns (“themes”) within nonnumerical (qualitative) data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By searching the NHS database of patient-safety-related incidents, the researchers identified 2010 incidents that occurred between 1 June 2010 and 31 October 2012 that resulted in the death of adult patients in acute hospital settings. By scrutinizing the structured information in each incident report and the associated free text in which the reporter described what happened and why they think it happened, the researchers classified the reports into 18 incident categories. These categories fell into six broad areas of systemic failure—mismanagement of deterioration (35% of incidents), failure of prevention (26%), deficient checking and oversight (11%), dysfunctional patient flow (10%), equipment-related errors (6%), and other (12%, incidents where the problem underlying death was unclear). Management of deterioration, for example, included the incident categories “failure to act on or recognize deterioration” (23% of reported incidents), “failure to give ordered treatment/support in a timely manner,” and “failure to observe.” Failure of prevention included the incident categories “falls” (10% of reported incidents), “healthcare-associated infections” (also 10% of reported incidents), “pressure sores,” “suicides,” and “deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the accuracy of these findings may be limited by data quality and by other aspects of the study design, they reveal patterns of patient-safety-related deaths in hospitals in England and highlight areas of healthcare that can be targeted for improvement. The finding that the mismanagement of deterioration of acutely ill patients is involved in a third of patient-safety-related deaths identifies an area of particular concern in the NHS and, potentially, in other healthcare systems. One way to reduce deaths associated with the mismanagement of deterioration, suggest the researchers, might be to introduce a standardized early warning score to ensure uniform identification of this population of patients. The researchers also suggest that more effort should be put into designing programs to prevent falls and other incidents and into ensuring that these programs are effectively implemented. More generally, the classification system developed here has the potential to help hospital boards and clinicians identify areas of patient care that require greater scrutiny and intervention and thereby save the lives of many hospital patients.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The NHS provides information about patient safety, including a definition of a patient safety incident and information on reporting patient safety incidents
The NHS Choices website includes several “Behind the Headlines” articles that discuss patient safety in hospitals, including an article that discusses the 2012 report of high hospital death rates in England, “Fit for the Future?” and another that discusses the Keogh review of the quality of care in the hospitals with highest death rates
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides information on patient safety in the US
Wikipedia has pages on thematic analysis and on patient safety (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4068985  PMID: 24959751
17.  A Validity Review of the NBR 
Health-related registries arose due from clinician desire to improve patient quality of care for a specific disorder. As such, disease registries differ from administrative registries in concept, organization, purpose, data recording, and results. Due to their voluntary nature, health-related disease registries are not regularly audited, have a narrow focus, and are designed for clinicians, not administrators. As part of a Department of Defense initiative we conducted an intensive qualitative review of the American Burn Association’s National Burn Repository (NBR). Our objectives are to inform future users of the NBR of issues that could affect statistical analyses and inferences and assist efforts to improve data collection.
We obtained a deidentified copy of the 2009 release of the NBR containing 286,293 records. We reviewed this data set for 1) records lacking vital patient information (age, burn size, survival, gender), 2) inconsistencies between data in different fields of the database, and 3) duplicate values.
Restricting our review to records with an admission year of 2000 or later, vital patient information was missing or invalid for about 60,000 records. Data inconsistencies were found in hospital admission status (initial admission or readmission) for about 12,000 records, survival for about 950 records, and burn injury for about 5,500 records. Depending on the criteria used to identify duplicate records, we found at least 4,000 duplicate records but as many as 14,000 in the database. Finally, significant data quality issues were found for facilities not using the TRACS software.
All health-related disease registries, unlike administrative databases, are voluntary. Anonymity of data is vital, and data auditing and reporting are challenging. The data contained in the NBR is disease-specific, and, as such, has the potential to provide valuable epidemiologic, treatment, and outcome data as reported by clinicians, not registrars. The NBR provides substantive data on burn injury; however, data review needs to precede data analysis. Revisions to NBR data collection have improved the quality of data submitted, yet data quality issues remain in the current database. Investigators are cautioned to thoroughly assess all fields prior to conducting analyses using the NBR.
PMCID: PMC3567245  PMID: 23128133
National Burn Repository; health registry; burns
18.  Electronic Clinical Safety Reporting System: A Benefits Evaluation 
JMIR Medical Informatics  2014;2(1):e12.
Eastern Health, a large health care organization in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), started a staged implementation of an electronic occurrence reporting system (used interchangeably with “clinical safety reporting system”) in 2008, completing Phase One in 2009. The electronic clinical safety reporting system (CSRS) was designed to replace a paper-based system. The CSRS involves reporting on occurrences such as falls, safety/security issues, medication errors, treatment and procedural mishaps, medical equipment malfunctions, and close calls. The electronic system was purchased from a vendor in the United Kingdom that had implemented the system in the United Kingdom and other places, such as British Columbia. The main objective of the new system was to improve the reporting process with the goal of improving clinical safety. The project was funded jointly by Eastern Health and Canada Health Infoway.
The objectives of the evaluation were to: (1) assess the CSRS on achieving its stated objectives (particularly, the benefits realized and lessons learned), and (2) identify contributions, if any, that can be made to the emerging field of electronic clinical safety reporting.
The evaluation involved mixed methods, including extensive stakeholder participation, pre/post comparative study design, and triangulation of data where possible. The data were collected from several sources, such as project documentation, occurrence reporting records, stakeholder workshops, surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews.
The findings provided evidence that frontline staff and managers support the CSRS, identifying both benefits and areas for improvement. Many benefits were realized, such as increases in the number of occurrences reported, in occurrences reported within 48 hours, in occurrences reported by staff other than registered nurses, in close calls reported, and improved timelines for notification. There was also user satisfaction with the tool regarding ease of use, accessibility, and consistency. The implementation process encountered challenges related to customizing the software and the development of the classification system for coding occurrences. This impacted on the ability of the managers to close-out files in a timely fashion. The issues that were identified, and suggestions for improvements to the form itself, were shared with the Project Team as soon as they were noted. Changes were made to the system before the rollout.
There were many benefits realized from the new system that can contribute to improved clinical safety. The participants preferred the electronic system over the paper-based system. The lessons learned during the implementation process resulted in recommendations that informed the rollout of the system in Eastern Health, and in other health care organizations in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This study also informed the evaluation of other health organizations in the province, which was completed in 2013.
PMCID: PMC4288083  PMID: 25600569
electronic occurrence reporting; electronic clinical safety reporting; adverse event reporting in health care; evaluating electronic reporting systems in health care; health information technology evaluations
19.  Medical Evidence of Human Rights Violations against Non-Arabic-Speaking Civilians in Darfur: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001198.
Alexander Tsai and colleagues review medical records from the Amel Centre, Sudan, to assess consistency between recorded medical evidence and patient reports of human rights violations by the Government of Sudan and Janjaweed forces.
Ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis. We sought to characterize the nature and geographic scope of allegations of human rights violations perpetrated against civilians in Darfur and to evaluate their consistency with medical examinations documented in patients' medical records.
Methods and Findings
This was a retrospective review and analysis of medical records from all 325 patients seen for treatment from September 28, 2004, through December 31, 2006, at the Nyala-based Amel Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, the only dedicated local provider of free clinical and legal services to civilian victims of torture and other human rights violations in Darfur during this time period. Among 325 medical records identified and examined, 292 (89.8%) patients from 12 different non-Arabic-speaking tribes disclosed in the medical notes that they had been attacked by Government of Sudan (GoS) and/or Janjaweed forces. Attacks were reported in 23 different rural council areas throughout Darfur. Nearly all attacks (321 [98.8%]) were described as having occurred in the absence of active armed conflict between Janjaweed/GoS forces and rebel groups. The most common alleged abuses were beatings (161 [49.5%]), gunshot wounds (140 [43.1%]), destruction or theft of property (121 [37.2%]), involuntary detainment (97 [29.9%]), and being bound (64 [19.7%]). Approximately one-half (36 [49.3%]) of all women disclosed that they had been sexually assaulted, and one-half of sexual assaults were described as having occurred in close proximity to a camp for internally displaced persons. Among the 198 (60.9%) medical records that contained sufficient detail to enable the forensic medical reviewers to render an informed judgment, the signs and symptoms in all of the medical records were assessed to be consistent with, highly consistent with, or virtually diagnostic of the alleged abuses.
Allegations of widespread and sustained torture and other human rights violations by GoS and/or Janjaweed forces against non-Arabic-speaking civilians were corroborated by medical forensic review of medical records of patients seen at a local non-governmental provider of free clinical and legal services in Darfur. Limitations of this study were that patients seen in this clinic may not have been a representative sample of persons alleging abuse by Janjaweed/GoS forces, and that most delayed presenting for care. The quality of documentation was similar to that available in other conflict/post-conflict, resource-limited settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan between Arabic- and non-Arabic-speaking tribes over the past decade has resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 2.7 million people have fled from their homes to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or to refugee camps in neighboring Chad, and up to 300,000 people have died from war, hunger, and disease since the conflict started. The origins of this conflict go back many years, but in 2003, organized rebel forces began attacking government targets, accusing the Government of Sudan (GoS) of oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. In response, the GoS attacked the rebel forces, but some observers allege it also targeted non-Arabic-speaking civilians, in contravention of international laws of war. Observers have also accused the GoS of having links with the Janjaweed militias, nomadic Arabs who attack settled black farmers, although the GoS denies any such links. Indeed, reports of systematic, targeted assaults on non-Arabic-speaking civilians, of large-scale disruption of rural livelihoods, and of deliberate consignment to living conditions likely to cause death have prompted some observers to accuse the GoS of genocide (violent crimes committed against a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group with the intention of destroying that group) and the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for the allegedly responsible authorities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most investigations of claims of violence against civilians in Darfur have relied on self-reported data gathered from people living in refugee camps outside Sudan. Because these data could be biased, in this cross-sectional study (a study that characterizes a population at a single point in time), the researchers investigate the nature and geographic scope of alleged abuses against civilians in Darfur and endeavor to substantiate these allegations by analyzing the medical records of patients attending the Amel Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture in Nyala, South Darfur. Opened in 2004, this center provided free clinical and legal services to civilians affected by human rights violations. Its staff fled in 2009 because of increasingly dangerous working conditions; the medical records used in this study were sent out of Sudan before the staff fled.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between September 28, 2004, and December 31, 2006, 325 patients were seen at the Amel Centre. According to their medical records, 292 patients from 12 different non-Arabic-speaking tribes alleged that they had been attacked by GoS or Janjaweed forces in rural areas across Darfur. Nearly all the patients reported that they had been attacked in the absence of active armed conflict between GoS/Janjaweed forces and rebel groups. Half of them claimed that they had been beaten, two-fifths reported gunshot wounds, a third reported destruction or theft of property, and nearly a third reported involuntary detainment. Half of the 73 women seen at the center disclosed that they had been sexually assaulted, often near IDP camps. Only 198 medical records contained sufficient detail to enable the researchers to determine whether the documented medical evidence was consistent with the alleged abuses. However, in all these cases, the researchers judged that the medical evidence was consistent with, highly consistent with, or virtually diagnostic of the alleged abuses.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide credible medical evidence that is consistent with torture and other human rights violations being inflicted on non-Arabic-speaking civilians in Darfur from 2004 to 2006. These findings cannot be used to estimate the population incidence of attacks on civilians or to corroborate claims of assailants' identities or of genocidal intent. Moreover, their accuracy may be affected by several limitations of this study. For example, during the study period, only patients who obtained a medical evidence form from the police were permitted to receive treatment from an authorized medical officer; obtaining such a form likely represented a considerable hurdle to accessing health care services. Nevertheless, the widespread, organized, and sustained pattern of attacks documented in this study is consistent with the possibility that the actions of Janjaweed and GoS forces during the conflict in Darfur may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or acts of genocide. Importantly, these findings also highlight the need to provide adequate protection for health professionals working in countries affected by internal conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at
The African UnionUnited Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) provides background information and up-to-date news about the ongoing conflict in Darfur Amnesty International, which campaigns for human rights, provides background information and news about the current situation in Darfur
The Save Dafur Coalition also provides detailed information about the situation in Darfur Physicians for Human Rights, a non-profit organization that mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice, is calling for security in Darfur and compensation and restitution for survivors of the conflict
Wikipedia has pages on Darfur and on genocide (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Details on warrants of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court in response to the situation in Dafur are available
PMCID: PMC3317898  PMID: 22509136
20.  Adverse events analysis as an educational tool to improve patient safety culture in primary care: A randomized trial 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:50.
Patient safety is a leading item on the policy agenda of both major international health organizations and advanced countries generally. The quantitative description of the phenomena has given rise to intense concern with the issue in institutions and organizations, leading to a number of initiatives and research projects and the promotion of patient safety culture, with training becoming a priority both in Spain and internationally. To date, most studies have been conducted in a hospital setting, even though primary care is the type most commonly used by the public, in our experience.
Our study aims to achieve the following:
- Assess the registry of adverse events as an education tool to improve patient safety culture in the Family and Community Teaching Units of Galicia.
- Find and analyze educational tools to improve patient safety culture in primary care.
- Evaluate the applicability of the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Spanish version, in the context of primary health care.
Design and methods
Experimental unifactorial study of two groups, control and intervention.
Study population
Tutors and residents in Family and Community Medicine in last year of studies in Galicia, Spain.
From the population universe through voluntary participation. Twenty-seven tutor-resident units in each group required, randomly assigned.
Residents and their respective tutor (tutor-resident pair) in teaching units on Family and Community Medicine from throughout Galicia will be invited to participate. Tutor-resident pair that agrees to participate will be sent the Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture. Then, tutor-resident pair will be assigned to each group-either intervention or control-through simple random sampling. The intervention group will receive specific training to record the adverse effects found in patients under their care, with subsequent feedback, after receiving instruction on the process. No action will be taken in the control group. After the intervention has ended, the survey will once again be provided to all participants.
Outcome measures
Change in safety culture as measured by Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture
CONSORT Extension for Non-Pharmacologic Treatments 2008 was applied.
The most significant limitations on the project are related to selecting a tool to measure the safety environment, the training calendar of residents in Family and Community Medicine in last year of studies and the no-answer bias inherent to research conducted through self-administered surveys.
The development and application of a safety culture in the health sector, specifically in primary care, is as yet limited. Thus, identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the safety environment may assist in designing strategies for improvement in the primary care health centers of our region.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3142500  PMID: 21672197
21.  Substance abuse prevention infrastructure: a survey-based study of the organizational structure and function of the D.A.R.E. program 
The only national drug abuse prevention delivery system that supports the rapid diffusion of new prevention strategies and includes uniform training and credentialing of instructors who are monitored for quality implementation of prevention programming is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education network (D.A.R.E.) linking community law enforcement to schools. Analysis of the organizational structure and function of D.A.R.E. provides an understanding of the essential parameters of this successful delivery system that can be used in the development of other types of national infrastructures for community-based prevention services. Information regarding organizational structure and function around funding issues, training, quality control and community relationships was gathered through telephone surveys with 50 state D.A.R.E. coordinators (including two major cities), focus groups with local D.A.R.E. officers and mentors, and interviews with national D.A.R.E. office staff.
The surveys helped identify several strengths inherent in the D.A.R.E. program necessary for building a prevention infrastructure, including a well-defined organizational focus (D.A.R.E. America), uniform training and means for rapid dissemination (through its organized training structure), continuing education mechanisms (through the state and national conference and website), mechanisms for program monitoring and fidelity of implementation (formal and informal), branding and, for several states, predictable and consistent financing. Weaknesses of the program as currently structured include unstable funding and the failure to incorporate components for the continual upgrading of curricula reflecting research evidence and "principles of prevention".
The D.A.R.E. organization and service delivery network provides a framework for the rapid dissemination of evidence-based prevention strategies. The major strength of D.A.R.E. is its natural affiliation to local law enforcement agencies through state coordinators. Through these affiliations, it has been possible for D.A.R.E. to become established nationally within a few years and internationally within a decade. Understanding how this structure developed and currently functions provides insights into how other such delivery systems could be developed.
PMCID: PMC1584226  PMID: 16956400
22.  Rational Prescribing in Primary Care (RaPP): A Cluster Randomized Trial of a Tailored Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e134.
A gap exists between evidence and practice regarding the management of cardiovascular risk factors. This gap could be narrowed if systematically developed clinical practice guidelines were effectively implemented in clinical practice. We evaluated the effects of a tailored intervention to support the implementation of systematically developed guidelines for the use of antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering drugs for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial comparing a tailored intervention to passive dissemination of guidelines in 146 general practices in two geographical areas in Norway. Each practice was randomized to either the tailored intervention (70 practices; 257 physicians) or control group (69 practices; 244 physicians). Patients started on medication for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia during the study period and all patients already on treatment that consulted their physician during the trial were included. A multifaceted intervention was tailored to address identified barriers to change. Key components were an educational outreach visit with audit and feedback, and computerized reminders linked to the medical record system. Pharmacists conducted the visits. Outcomes were measured for all eligible patients seen in the participating practices during 1 y before and after the intervention. The main outcomes were the proportions of (1) first-time prescriptions for hypertension where thiazides were prescribed, (2) patients assessed for cardiovascular risk before prescribing antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs, and (3) patients treated for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia for 3 mo or more who had achieved recommended treatment goals.
The intervention led to an increase in adherence to guideline recommendations on choice of antihypertensive drug. Thiazides were prescribed to 17% of patients in the intervention group versus 11% in the control group (relative risk 1.94; 95% confidence interval 1.49–2.49, adjusted for baseline differences and clustering effect). Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
Our tailored intervention had a significant impact on prescribing of antihypertensive drugs, but was ineffective in improving the quality of other aspects of managing hypertension and hypercholesterolemia in primary care.
Editors' Summary
An important issue in health care is “getting research into practice,” in other words, making sure that, when evidence from research has established the best way to treat a disease, doctors actually use that approach with their patients. In reality, there is often a gap between evidence and practice.
  An example concerns the treatment of people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol. These are common conditions, and both increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Research has shown that the risks can be lowered if patients with these conditions are given drugs that lower blood pressure (antihypertensives) and drugs that lower cholesterol. There are many types of these drugs now available. In many countries, the health authorities want family doctors (general practitioners) to make better use of these drugs. They want doctors to prescribe them to everyone who would benefit, using the type of drugs found to be most effective. When there is a choice of drugs that are equally effective, they want doctors to use the cheapest type. (In the case of antihypertensives, an older type, known as thiazides, is very effective and also very cheap, but many doctors prefer to give their patients newer, more expensive alternatives.) Health authorities have issued guidelines to doctors that address these issues. However, it is not easy to change prescribing practices, and research in several countries has shown that issuing guidelines has only limited effects.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted—in two parts of Norway—to compare the effects on prescribing practices of what they called the “passive dissemination of guidelines” with a more active approach, where the use of the guidelines was strongly promoted and encouraged.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They worked with 146 general practices. In half of them the guidelines were actively promoted. The remaining were regarded as a control group; they were given the guidelines but no special efforts were made to encourage their use. It was decided at random which practices would be in which group; this approach is called a randomized controlled trial. The methods used to actively promote use of the guidelines included personal visits to the practices by pharmacists and use of a computerized reminder system. Information was then collected on the number of patients who, when first treated for hypertension, were prescribed a thiazide. Other information collected included whether patients had been properly assessed for their level of risk (for strokes and heart attacks) before antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs were given. In addition, the researchers recorded whether the recommended targets for improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol level had been reached.
Only 11% of those patients visiting the control group of practices who should have been prescribed thiazides, according to the guidelines, actually received them. Of those seen by doctors in the practices where the guidelines were actively promoted, 17% received thiazides. According to statistical analysis, the increase achieved by active promotion is significant. Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Even in the active promotion group, the great majority of patients (83%) were still not receiving treatment according to the guidelines. However, active promotion of guidelines is more effective than simply issuing the guidelines by themselves. The study also demonstrates that it is very hard to change prescribing practices. The efforts made here to encourage the doctors to change were considerable, and although the results were significant, they were still disappointing. Also disappointing is the fact that achievement of treatment goals was no better in the active-promotion group. These issues are discussed further in a Perspective about this study (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030229).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The Web site of the American Academy of Family Physicians has a page on heart disease
• The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia's pages on heart diseases and vascular diseases
• Information from NHS Direct (UK National Health Service) about heart attack and stroke
• Another PLoS Medicine article has also addressed trends in thiazide prescribing
Passive dissemination of management guidelines for hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia was compared with active promotion. Active promotion led to significant improvement in antihypertensive prescribing but not other aspects of management.
PMCID: PMC1472695  PMID: 16737346
23.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
24.  Medication errors: pharmacovigilance centres in detection and prevention 
Detecting medication errors needs collaboration between various organizations, such as patient safety institutions, pharmacovigilance centres, and poison control centres. In order to evaluate the input of pharmacovigilance centres and poison control centres in detecting and evaluating medication errors a pilot project was initiated by the World Alliance for Patient Safety in collaboration with the Uppsala Monitoring Centre; the Moroccan pharmacovigilance centre acted as project coordinator. As part of this project, a questionnaire on detecting medication errors was circulated to pharmacovigilance centres and poison control centres around the world, in order to assess their ability to detect and analyse medication errors.The results showed that through their databases pharmacovigilance centres can detect, identify, analyse, and classify medication errors and carry out root cause analysis, which is an important tool in preventing medication errors.The duties of pharmacovigilance centres in preventing medication errors include informing health-care professionals about the importance of reporting such errors and creating a culture of patient safety. Pharmacovigilance centres aim to prevent medication errors in collaboration with poison control centres. Such collaboration allows improved detection and improved preventive strategies. In addition, collaboration with regulatory authorities is important in finalizing decisions.Collaboration between pharmacovigilance centres and poison control centres should be strengthened and bridges need to be built linking pharmacovigilance centres, poison control centres, and organizations dedicated to patient safety, in order to avoid duplication of workload.
PMCID: PMC2723210  PMID: 19594539
detection; medication errors; pharmacovigilance centres; poison control centres; prevention; root cause analysis
25.  Association of Medical Students' Reports of Interactions with the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries and Medical School Policies and Characteristics: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001743.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues compared US medical students' survey responses regarding pharmaceutical company interactions with the schools' AMSA PharmFree scorecard and Institute on Medicine as a Profession's (IMAP) scores.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Professional societies use metrics to evaluate medical schools' policies regarding interactions of students and faculty with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We compared these metrics and determined which US medical schools' industry interaction policies were associated with student behaviors.
Methods and Findings
Using survey responses from a national sample of 1,610 US medical students, we compared their reported industry interactions with their schools' American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and average Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database score. We used hierarchical logistic regression models to determine the association between policies and students' gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation. We adjusted for year in training, medical school size, and level of US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. We used LASSO regression models to identify specific policies associated with the outcomes. We found that IMAP and AMSA scores had similar median values (1.75 [interquartile range 1.50–2.00] versus 1.77 [1.50–2.18], adjusted to compare scores on the same scale). Scores on AMSA and IMAP shared policy dimensions were not closely correlated (gift policies, r = 0.28, 95% CI 0.11–0.44; marketing representative access policies, r = 0.51, 95% CI 0.36–0.63). Students from schools with the most stringent industry interaction policies were less likely to report receiving gifts (AMSA score, odds ratio [OR]: 0.37, 95% CI 0.19–0.72; IMAP score, OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.19–1.04) and less likely to interact with marketing representatives (AMSA score, OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.15–0.69; IMAP score, OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.14–0.95) than students from schools with the lowest ranked policy scores. The association became nonsignificant when fully adjusted for NIH funding level, whereas adjusting for year of education, size of school, and publicly versus privately funded school did not alter the association. Policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus were associated with students reporting having not received gifts and having not interacted with marketing representatives. Policy dimensions reflecting the regulation of industry involvement in educational activities (e.g., continuing medical education, travel compensation, and scholarships) were associated with perceived separation between faculty and industry. The study is limited by potential for recall bias and the cross-sectional nature of the survey, as school curricula and industry interaction policies may have changed since the time of the survey administration and study analysis.
As medical schools review policies regulating medical students' industry interactions, limitations on receipt of gifts and meals and participation of faculty in speaking bureaus should be emphasized, and policy makers should pay greater attention to less research-intensive institutions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling prescription drugs and medical devices is big business. To promote their products, pharmaceutical and medical device companies build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, by organizing educational meetings and sponsored events, and by giving gifts. Financial relationships begin early in physicians' careers, with companies providing textbooks and other gifts to first-year medical students. In medical school settings, manufacturers may help to inform trainees and physicians about developments in health care, but they also create the potential for harm to patients and health care systems. These interactions may, for example, reduce trainees' and trained physicians' skepticism about potentially misleading promotional claims and may encourage physicians to prescribe new medications, which are often more expensive than similar unbranded (generic) drugs and more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than older drugs. To address these and other concerns about the potential career-long effects of interactions between medical trainees and industry, many teaching hospitals and medical schools have introduced policies to limit such interactions. The development of these policies has been supported by expert professional groups and medical societies, some of which have created scales to evaluate the strength of the implemented industry interaction policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The impact of policies designed to limit interactions between students and industry on student behavior is unclear, and it is not known which aspects of the policies are most predictive of student behavior. This information is needed to ensure that the policies are working and to identify ways to improve them. Here, the researchers investigate which medical school characteristics and which aspects of industry interaction policies are most predictive of students' reported behaviors and beliefs by comparing information collected in a national survey of US medical students with the strength of their schools' industry interaction policies measured on two scales—the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared information about reported gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and the perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation collected from 1,610 medical students at 121 US medical schools with AMSA and IMAP scores for the schools evaluated a year earlier. Students at schools with the highest ranked interaction policies based on the AMSA score were 63% less likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools. Students at the highest ranked schools based on the IMAP score were about half as likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools, although this finding was not statistically significant (it could be a chance finding). Similarly, students at the highest ranked schools were 70% less likely to interact with sales representatives as students at the lowest ranked schools. These associations became statistically nonsignificant after controlling for the amount of research funding each school received from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Policies limiting gifts, meals, and being a part of speaking bureaus (where companies pay speakers to present information about the drugs for dinners and other events) were associated with students' reports of receiving no gifts and of non-interaction with sales representatives. Finally, policies regulating industry involvement in educational activities were associated with the perceived separation between faculty and industry, which was regarded as adequate by most of the students at schools with such policies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that policies designed to limit industry interactions with medical students need to address multiple aspects of these interactions to achieve changes in the behavior and attitudes of trainees, but that policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus may be particularly important. These findings also suggest that the level of NIH funding plays an important role in students' self-reported behaviors and their perceptions of industry, possibly because institutions with greater NIH funding have the resources needed to implement effective policies. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by recall bias (students may have reported their experiences inaccurately), and by the possibility that industry interaction policies may have changed in the year that elapsed between policy grading and the student survey. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that limitations on gifts should be emphasized when academic medical centers refine their policies on interactions between medical students and industry and that particular attention should be paid to the design and implementation of policies that regulate industry interactions in institutions with lower levels of NIH funding.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice document, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Information about the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Just Medicine campaign (formerly the PharmFree campaign) and about the AMSA Scorecard is available
Information about the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and about its Conflicts of Interest Policy Database is also available
“Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide” is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that medical schools can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion
The US Institute of Medicine's report “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice” recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The ALOSA Foundation provides evidence-based, non-industry-funded education about treating common conditions and using prescription drugs
PMCID: PMC4196737  PMID: 25314155

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