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1.  Ethnographic study of ICT-supported collaborative work routines in general practice 
Health informatics research has traditionally been dominated by experimental and quasi-experimental designs. An emerging area of study in organisational sociology is routinisation (how collaborative work practices become business-as-usual). There is growing interest in the use of ethnography and other in-depth qualitative approaches to explore how collaborative work routines are enacted and develop over time, and how electronic patient records (EPRs) are used to support collaborative work practices within organisations.
Following Feldman and Pentland, we will use 'the organisational routine' as our unit of analysis. In a sample of four UK general practices, we will collect narratives, ethnographic observations, multi-modal (video and screen capture) data, documents and other artefacts, and analyse these to map and compare the different understandings and enactments of three common routines (repeat prescribing, coding and summarising, and chronic disease surveillance) which span clinical and administrative spaces and which, though 'mundane', have an important bearing on quality and safety of care. In a detailed qualitative analysis informed by sociological theory, we aim to generate insights about how complex collaborative work is achieved through the process of routinisation in healthcare organisations.
Our study offers the potential not only to identify potential quality failures (poor performance, errors, failures of coordination) in collaborative work routines but also to reveal the hidden work and workarounds by front-line staff which bridge the model-reality gap in EPR technologies and via which "automated" safety features have an impact in practice.
PMCID: PMC3224237  PMID: 21190583
2.  Effect of a Brief Video Intervention on Incident Infection among Patients Attending Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinics  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e135.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention remains a public health priority. Simple, practical interventions to reduce STD incidence that can be easily and inexpensively administered in high-volume clinical settings are needed. We evaluated whether a brief video, which contained STD prevention messages targeted to all patients in the waiting room, reduced acquisition of new infections after that clinic visit.
Methods and Findings
In a controlled trial among patients attending three publicly funded STD clinics (one in each of three US cities) from December 2003 to August 2005, all patients (n = 38,635) were systematically assigned to either a theory-based 23-min video depicting couples overcoming barriers to safer sexual behaviors, or the standard waiting room environment. Condition assignment alternated every 4 wk and was determined by which condition (intervention or control) was in place in the clinic waiting room during the patient's first visit within the study period. An intent-to-treat analysis was used to compare STD incidence between intervention and control patients. The primary endpoint was time to diagnosis of incident laboratory-confirmed infections (gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, syphilis, and HIV), as identified through review of medical records and county STD surveillance registries. During 14.8 mo (average) of follow-up, 2,042 patients (5.3%) were diagnosed with incident STD (4.9%, intervention condition; 5.7%, control condition). In survival analysis, patients assigned to the intervention condition had significantly fewer STDs compared with the control condition (hazard ratio [HR], 0.91; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 0.99).
Showing a brief video in STD clinic waiting rooms reduced new infections nearly 10% overall in three clinics. This simple, low-intensity intervention may be appropriate for adoption by clinics that serve similar patient populations.
Trial registration: (#NCT00137670).
In a controlled trial at three urban STD clinics, Lee Warner and colleagues find that showing an educational video in waiting rooms reduced new infections by approximately 10%.
Editors' Summary
In the US alone there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) every year. STDs are infections that pass between people during sexual activity (through semen, vaginal fluids, blood, or skin-to-skin contact). Some STDs are caused by bacteria (for example, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis). Others are caused by parasites (for example, trichomoniasis) or viruses (for example, herpes simplex virus and HIV). Symptoms vary among STDs but may include sores, unusual lumps and itching in the genital region, pain when urinating, and unusual genital discharge. While symptoms are generally more common in men than women, many STDs cause no symptoms. Untreated STDs are more serious for women and may include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and chronic pain. Bacterial and parasitic STDs can be cured with various drugs; STDs caused by viruses cannot be cured although they can be treated with antiviral drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several interventions have been developed to educate people at risk of infection about risky sexual behavior and to teach them the personal skills needed to avoid unsafe sex (for example, negotiation skills that help them persuade their partner to use a condom). Although these interventions reduce the incidence of STDs, they usually involve several sessions of individual or group counseling and are likely too complex and expensive to implement in busy STD clinics. In this study, the researchers ask whether a short video that contains key STD prevention messages can reduce the acquisition of new infections among patients who watch the video while sitting in the waiting room of an STD clinic (a “teachable moment” when people are likely to be receptive to messages about health risks).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a 23-minute soap-opera style video—“Safe in the City”—that contained three interwoven dramas about young people in various types of relationships negotiating safer sexual behavior, and two animation segments about condoms. The researchers showed this video (and displayed related posters) in the waiting rooms of three US publicly funded STD clinics every alternate month over a 20-month period. Nearly 20,000 patients were exposed to this intervention. Another 20,000 “control” patients who attended the clinics in the months when the video was not shown were exposed to a standard waiting room environment in which only leaflets about STDs and condoms were available. The researchers then reviewed medical records and STD surveillance registries to find out how many patients in each group developed laboratory-confirmed STD after their initial clinic visit. Their statistical analyses show that the intervention reduced the number of new STD diagnoses by nearly 10%. The intervention was most effective among patients who had had an STD at their first visit and among men, but did not appear to reduce the chances of women acquiring an STD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that showing a brief, carefully designed video in STD clinic waiting rooms might be a simple, effective way to reduce the incidence of STDs. More research is needed to discover which parts of the video—those that increase knowledge and perception of STD risk, those that promote positive attitudes toward condom use, or those that provide the necessary skills to negotiate safe sexual practices—are the most effective and why the video appeared to be more effective for some groups of patients than others. The intervention also needs to be tested in other types of clinics but if it works as well elsewhere as in the three study clinics, the widespread implementation of this low-cost, low-intensity waiting room intervention could produce a meaningful reduction in the incidence of STDs in the US and elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on sexually transmitted diseases
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information about sexually transmitted diseases, including information about STD prevention (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus also provides a list of links to information about sexually transmitted diseases (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on safe sex (in English and Spanish)
The Safe in the CIty Study Group has a project-specific Web site that provides additional details about the intervention and a mechanism for ordering the video
PMCID: PMC2504047  PMID: 18578564
3.  Changes, disruption and innovation: An investigation of the introduction of new health information technology in a microbiology laboratory 
It is expected that health information technology (HIT) will deliver a safer, more efficient and effective health care system. The aim of this study was to undertake a qualitative and video-ethnographic examination of the impact of information technologies on work processes in the reception area of a Microbiology Department, to ascertain what changed, how it changed and the impact of the change.
Materials and Methods:
The setting for this study was the microbiology laboratory of a large tertiary hospital in Sydney. The study consisted of qualitative (interview and focus group) data and observation sessions for the period August 2005 to October 2006 along with video footage shot in three sessions covering the original system and the two stages of the Cerner implementation. Data analysis was assisted by NVivo software and process maps were produced from the video footage.
There were two laboratory information systems observed in the video footage with computerized provider order entry introduced four months later. Process maps highlighted the large number of pre data entry steps with the original system whilst the newer system incorporated many of these steps in to the data entry stage. However, any time saved with the new system was offset by the requirement to complete some data entry of patient information not previously required. Other changes noted included the change of responsibilities for the reception staff and the physical changes required to accommodate the increased activity around the data entry area.
Implementing a new HIT is always an exciting time for any environment but ensuring that the implementation goes smoothly and with minimal trouble requires the administrator and their team to plan well in advance for staff training, physical layout and possible staff resource reallocation.
PMCID: PMC3352618  PMID: 22616028
Computerized provider order entry; health informatics; laboratory information systems; microbiology laboratory
4.  Receptionist input to quality and safety in repeat prescribing in UK general practice: ethnographic case study 
Objective To describe, explore, and compare organisational routines for repeat prescribing in general practice to identify contributors and barriers to safety and quality.
Design Ethnographic case study.
Setting Four urban UK general practices with diverse organisational characteristics using electronic patient records that supported semi-automation of repeat prescribing.
Participants 395 hours of ethnographic observation of staff (25 doctors, 16 nurses, 4 healthcare assistants, 6 managers, and 56 reception or administrative staff), and 28 documents and other artefacts relating to repeat prescribing locally and nationally.
Main outcome measures Potential threats to patient safety and characteristics of good practice.
Methods Observation of how doctors, receptionists, and other administrative staff contributed to, and collaborated on, the repeat prescribing routine. Analysis included mapping prescribing routines, building a rich description of organisational practices, and drawing these together through narrative synthesis. This was informed by a sociological model of how organisational routines shape and are shaped by information and communications technologies.
Results Repeat prescribing was a complex, technology-supported social practice requiring collaboration between clinical and administrative staff, with important implications for patient safety. More than half of requests for repeat prescriptions were classed as “exceptions” by receptionists (most commonly because the drug, dose, or timing differed from what was on the electronic repeat list). They managed these exceptions by making situated judgments that enabled them (sometimes but not always) to bridge the gap between the idealised assumptions about tasks, roles, and interactions that were built into the electronic patient record and formal protocols, and the actual repeat prescribing routine as it played out in practice. This work was creative and demanded both explicit and tacit knowledge. Clinicians were often unaware of this input and it did not feature in policy documents or previous research. Yet it was sometimes critical to getting the job done and contributed in subtle ways to safeguarding patients.
Conclusion Receptionists and administrative staff make important “hidden” contributions to quality and safety in repeat prescribing in general practice, regarding themselves accountable to patients for these contributions. Studying technology-supported work routines that seem mundane, standardised, and automated, but which in reality require a high degree of local tailoring and judgment from frontline staff, opens up a new agenda for the study of patient safety.
PMCID: PMC3208023  PMID: 22053317
5.  A better model for care — virtual care coordination 
Telehealth is a proven tool for reducing costs, improving quality of life, reducing hospital visits/length of stay and enhancing relationships between patients and community nurses. There have been many trials demonstrating these benefits, and findings have always demonstrated return on investment. However, uptake has been slow—68% of providers have no plans to roll out a telehealth solution in the next 24 months. Through a decade of ethnographic research, Care Innovations has visited 20 countries, 1000 homes and 150 hospitals and clinics, generating more than a dozen pilot projects in homes and a number of research projects, to provide a better understanding of where telehealth fits within care models and how to maximise the benefits delivered by improving technologies.
Rather than a stand-alone device that provides medical readings remotely, clinicians and patients require a system-level, standards-based approach that is adaptable to practical healthcare system needs—from assessing patient status to providing better management of chronic conditions to compatibility with medical records systems. In this patient-centred approach, many factors, including psychosocial ones, are important to the process. Things like fostering an alliance between a patient and clinicians, reinforcing a patient’s desires and life goals, using more effective messages and positive psychology to motivate a patient to make difficult lifestyle changes, and personalising each course of treatment become integral to the process.
Virtual care coordination establishes an active and dynamic support network, linking patients with clinicians and doctors. Using computer-based biometric monitoring, two-way videoconferencing, educational tools, and logic-based evaluation techniques, patients gain more control over the management of their chronic conditions while being comfortable within their home environment. This approach helps provide quality, cost effective treatment of long-term diseases, encouraging healthy behaviours and providing positive feedback to guide the health process. Treating the whole person in this manner is an emerging field referred to as integrative care.
Integrative care via virtual care coordination is a model that encompasses a variety of disciplines and that treats the whole person, not simply the disease. Using the strengths of conventional medicine combined with complementary treatments (that might include biofeedback, meditation, dietary changes, and stress reduction techniques), integrative care establishes a deeper relationship between the patient and the physician, emphasising wellness and patient self-care. Four elements combine to assist patients in making the necessary lifestyle changes to successfully improve their health and to manage chronic conditions more effectively: Engage: Make interaction with the device a pleasant, personalised experience to encourage long-term use and acceptance.Educate: Give patients access to relevant, timely information through videos and instructional material to support lifestyle changes and the prescribed treatment plan.Evaluate: Provide a way for physicians and clinicians to remotely assess improvements or detect setbacks in a patient’s condition and respond quickly when necessary.Empower: Give patients the means to manage their conditions actively and to live as independently as possible.
Drawing on findings and insights from recent pilot studies that demonstrate the successful use of virtual care coordination, Claire Medd will highlight key outcomes, demonstrating how telehealth can be successfully incorporated into a comprehensive care model to increase the value and outcomes of pilots and rollouts.
PMCID: PMC3571132
care innovations; virtual care coordination; comprehensive care model; chronic conditions
6.  A self-evaluation tool for integrated care services: the Development Model for Integrated Care applied in practice 
The purpose of the workshop is to show the applications of the Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC) in practice. This relatively new and validated model, can be used by integrated care practices to evaluate their integrated care, to assess their phase of development and reveal improvement areas. In the workshop the results of the use of the model in three types of integrated care settings in the Netherlands will be presented. Participants are offered practical instruments based on the validated DMIC to use in their own setting and will be introduced to the webbased tool.
To integrate care from multiple providers into a coherent and streamlined client-focused service, a large number of activities and agreements have to be implemented like streamlining information flows and adequate transfers of clients. In the large range of possible activities it is often not clear what essential activities are and where to start or continue. Also, knowledge about how to further develop integrated care services is needed. The Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC), based on PhD research of Mirella Minkman, describes nine clusters containing in total 89 elements that contribute to the integration of care. The clusters are named: ‘client-centeredness’, ‘delivery system’, ‘performance management’, ‘quality of care’, ‘result-focused learning’, ‘interprofessional teamwork’, ‘roles and tasks’, ‘commitment’, and ‘transparant entrepreneurship’ [1–3]. In 2011 a new digital webbased self-evolution tool which contains the 89 elements grouped in nine clusters was developed. The DMIC also describes four phases of development [4]. The model is empirically validated in practice by assessing the relevance and implementation of the elements and development phases in 84 integrated care services in The Netherlands: in stroke, acute myocardial infarct (AMI), and dementia services. The validation studies are recently published [5, 6]. In 2011 also other integrated care services started using the model [7]. Vilans developed a digital web-based self-evaluation tool for integrated care services based on the DMIC. A palliative care network, four diabetes services, a youth care service and a network for autism used the self-evaluation tool to evaluate the development of their integrated care service. Because of its generic character, the model and tool are believed to be also interesting internationally.
Data sources
In the workshop we will present the results of three studies in integrated diabetes, youth and palliative care. The three projects consist of multiple steps, see below. Workshop participants could also work with the DMIC following these steps.
One: Preparation of the digital self-evolution tool for integrated care services
Although they are very different, the three integrated care services all wanted to gain insight in their development and improvement opportunities. We tailored the digital self-evaluation tool for each specific integrated care services, but for all the basis was the DMIC. Personal accounts for the digital DMIC self-evalution survey were sent to multiple partners working in each integrated care service (4–16 partners).
Two: Use of the online self-evaluation tool each partner of the local integrated care setting evaluated the integrated care by filling in the web-based questionnaire. The tool consists of three parts (A-C) named: general information about the integrated care practice (A); the clusters and elements of the DMIC (B); and the four phases of development (C). The respondents rated the relevance and presence of each element in their integrated care practice. Respondents were asked to estimate in which phase of development their thought their service was.
Three: Analysing the results
Advisers from Vilans, the Centre of excellence for long-term care in the Netherlands, analysed the self-evolution results in cooperation with the integrated care coordinators. The results show the total amount of implemented integrated care elements per cluster in spider graphs and the development phase as calculated by the DMIC model. Suggestions for further development of the integrated care services were analysed and reported.
Four: Discussing the implications for further development
In a workshop with the local integrated care partners the results of the self-evaluation were presented and discussed. We noticed remarkable results and highlight elements for further development. In addition, we gave advice for further development appropriate to the development phase of the integrated care service. Furthermore, the professionals prioritized the elements and decided which elements to start working on. This resulted in a (quality improvement) plan for the further development of the integrated care service.
Five: Reporting results
In a report all the results of the survey (including consensus scores) and the workshops came together. The integrated care coordinators stated that the reports really helped them to assess their improvement strategy. Also, there was insight in the development phase of their service which gave tools for further development.
Case description
The three cases presented are a palliative network, an integrated diabetes services and an integrated care network for youth in the Netherlands. The palliative care network wanted to reflect on their current development, to build a guiding framework for further development of the network. About sixteen professionals within the network worked with the digital self-evaluation tool and the DMIC: home care organisations, welfare organizations, hospice centres, health care organisations, community organizations.
For diabetes care, a Dutch health care insurance company wished to gain insight in the development of the contracted integrated care services to stimulate further development of the services. Professionals of three diabetes integrated care services were invited to fill in the digital self-evaluation tool. Of each integrated care service professionals like a general practitioner, a diabetes nurse, a medical specialist, a dietician and a podiatrist were invited. In youth care, a local health organisation wondered whether the DMIC could be helpful to visualize the results of youth integrated care services at process- and organisational level. The goal of the project was to define indicators at a process- and organisational level for youth care services based on the DMIC. In the future, these indicators might be used to evaluate youth care integrated care services and improve the quality of youth care within the Netherlands.
Conclusions and discussion
It is important for the quality of integrated care services that the involved coordinators, managers and professionals are aware of the development process of the integrated care service and that they focus on elements which can further develop and improve their integrated care. However, we noticed that integrated care services in the Netherlands experience difficulties in developing their integrated care service. It is often not clear what essential activities are to work on and how to further develop the integrated care service. A guiding framework for the development of integrated care was missing. The DMIC model has been developed for that reason and offers a useful tool for assessment, self-evaluation or improvement of integrated care services in practice. The model has been validated for AMI, dementia and stroke services. The latest new studies in diabetes, palliative care and youth care gave further insight in the generic character of the DMIC. Based on these studies it can be assumed that the DMIC can be used for multiple types of integrated care services. The model is assumed to be interesting for an international audience. Improving integrated care is a complex topic in a large number of countries; the DMIC is also based on the international literature. Dutch integrated care coordinators stated that the DMIC helped them to assess their integrated care development in practice and supported them in obtaining ideas for expanding and improving their integrated care activities.
The web-based self-evaluation tool focuses on a process- and organisational level of integrated care. Also, the self assessed development phase can be compared to the development phase as calculated by the DMIC tool. The cases showed this is fruitful input for discussions. When using the tool, the results can also be used in quality policy reports and improvement plans. The web-based tool is being tested at this moment in practice, but in San Marino we can present the latest webversion and demonstrate with a short video how to use the tool and model. During practical exercises in the workshop the participants will experience how the application of the DMIC can work for them in practice or in research. For integrated care researchers and policy makers, the DMIC questionnaire and tool is a promising method for further research and policy plans in integrated care.
PMCID: PMC3617779
development model for integrated care; development of integrated care services; implementation and improvement of integrated care; self evaluation
7.  Navigating Regulatory Change: Preliminary Lessons Learned During the Healthcare Provider Transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS 
This article presents the findings of a collaborative effort between the Georgetown University Student Consulting Team and Booz Allen Hamilton to interview healthcare providers undergoing the transition to the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification/Procedure Coding System (ICD-10-CM/PCS). The goals of this study were to extract a common set of trends, challenges, and lessons learned surrounding the implementation of the ICD-10-CM/PCS code set and to produce actionable information that might serve as a resource for organizations navigating the transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS. The selected survey sample focused on a subset of large hospitals, integrated health systems, and other national industry leaders who are likely to have initiated the implementation process far in advance of the October 2013 deadline. Guided by a uniform survey tool, the team conducted a series of one-on-one provider interviews with department heads, senior staff members, and project managers leading ICD-10-CM/PCS conversion efforts from six diverse health systems. As expected, the integrated health systems surveyed seem to be on or ahead of schedule for the ICD-10-CM/PCS coding transition. However, results show that as of April 2010 most providers were still in the planning stages of implementation and were working to raise awareness within their organizations. Although individual levels of preparation varied widely among respondents, the study identified several trends, challenges, and lessons learned that will enable healthcare providers to assess their own status with respect to the industry and will provide useful insight into best practices for the ICD-10-CM/PCS transition.
PMCID: PMC3329201  PMID: 22548022
8.  Video Consultation Use by Australian General Practitioners: Video Vignette Study 
There is unequal access to health care in Australia, particularly for the one-third of the population living in remote and rural areas. Video consultations delivered via the Internet present an opportunity to provide medical services to those who are underserviced, but this is not currently routine practice in Australia. There are advantages and shortcomings to using video consultations for diagnosis, and general practitioners (GPs) have varying opinions regarding their efficacy.
The aim of this Internet-based study was to explore the attitudes of Australian GPs toward video consultation by using a range of patient scenarios presenting different clinical problems.
Overall, 102 GPs were invited to view 6 video vignettes featuring patients presenting with acute and chronic illnesses. For each vignette, they were asked to offer a differential diagnosis and to complete a survey based on the theory of planned behavior documenting their views on the value of a video consultation.
A total of 47 GPs participated in the study. The participants were younger than Australian GPs based on national data, and more likely to be working in a larger practice. Most participants (72%-100%) agreed on the differential diagnosis in all video scenarios. Approximately one-third of the study participants were positive about video consultations, one-third were ambivalent, and one-third were against them. In all, 91% opposed conducting a video consultation for the patient with symptoms of an acute myocardial infarction. Inability to examine the patient was most frequently cited as the reason for not conducting a video consultation. Australian GPs who were favorably inclined toward video consultations were more likely to work in larger practices, and were more established GPs, especially in rural areas. The survey results also suggest that the deployment of video technology will need to focus on follow-up consultations.
Patients with minor self-limiting illnesses and those with medical emergencies are unlikely to be offered access to a GP by video. The process of establishing video consultations as routine practice will need to be endorsed by senior members of the profession and funding organizations. Video consultation techniques will also need to be taught in medical schools.
PMCID: PMC3713911  PMID: 23782753
videoconferencing; general practice; patient appointments; health care
9.  Knowledge translation of the HELPinKIDS clinical practice guideline for managing childhood vaccination pain: usability and knowledge uptake of educational materials directed to new parents 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:23.
Although numerous evidence-based and feasible interventions are available to treat pain from childhood vaccine injections, evidence indicates that children are not benefitting from this knowledge. Unrelieved vaccination pain puts children at risk for significant long-term harms including the development of needle fears and subsequent health care avoidance behaviours. Parents report that while they want to mitigate vaccination pain in their children, they lack knowledge about how to do so. An evidence-based clinical practice guideline for managing vaccination pain was recently developed in order to address this knowledge-to-care gap. Educational tools (pamphlet and video) for parents were included to facilitate knowledge transfer at the point of care. The objectives of this study were to evaluate usability and effectiveness in terms of knowledge acquisition from the pamphlet and video in parents of newly born infants.
Mixed methods design. Following heuristic usability evaluation of the pamphlet and video, parents of newborn infants reviewed revised versions of both tools and participated in individual and group interviews and individual knowledge testing. The knowledge test comprised of 10 true/false questions about the effectiveness of various pain management interventions, and was administered at three time points: at baseline, after review of the pamphlet, and after review of the video.
Three overarching themes were identified from the interviews regarding usability of these educational tools: receptivity to learning, accessibility to information, and validity of information. Parents’ performance on the knowledge test improved (p≤0.001) from the baseline phase to after review of the pamphlet, and again from the pamphlet review phase to after review of the video.
Using a robust testing process, we demonstrated usability and conceptual knowledge acquisition from a parent-directed educational pamphlet and video about management of vaccination pain. Future studies are planned to determine the impact of these educational tools when introduced in clinical settings on parent behaviors during infant vaccinations.
PMCID: PMC3585914  PMID: 23394070
Vaccination; Pain management; Infant/child; Health information; Knowledge translation; Implementation; Parent education
10.  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
11.  A Theory-Based Video Messaging Mobile Phone Intervention for Smoking Cessation: Randomized Controlled Trial 
Advances in technology allowed the development of a novel smoking cessation program delivered by video messages sent to mobile phones. This social cognitive theory-based intervention (called “STUB IT”) used observational learning via short video diary messages from role models going through the quitting process to teach behavioral change techniques.
The objective of our study was to assess the effectiveness of a multimedia mobile phone intervention for smoking cessation.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 6-month follow-up. Participants had to be 16 years of age or over, be current daily smokers, be ready to quit, and have a video message-capable phone. Recruitment targeted younger adults predominantly through radio and online advertising. Registration and data collection were completed online, prompted by text messages. The intervention group received an automated package of video and text messages over 6 months that was tailored to self-selected quit date, role model, and timing of messages. Extra messages were available on demand to beat cravings and address lapses. The control group also set a quit date and received a general health video message sent to their phone every 2 weeks.
The target sample size was not achieved due to difficulty recruiting young adult quitters. Of the 226 randomized participants, 47% (107/226) were female and 24% (54/226) were Maori (indigenous population of New Zealand). Their mean age was 27 years (SD 8.7), and there was a high level of nicotine addiction. Continuous abstinence at 6 months was 26.4% (29/110) in the intervention group and 27.6% (32/116) in the control group (P = .8). Feedback from participants indicated that the support provided by the video role models was important and appreciated.
This study was not able to demonstrate a statistically significant effect of the complex video messaging mobile phone intervention compared with simple general health video messages via mobile phone. However, there was sufficient positive feedback about the ease of use of this novel intervention, and the support obtained by observing the role model video messages, to warrant further investigation.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Number: ACTRN12606000476538; (Archived by WebCite at
PMCID: PMC3221331  PMID: 21371991
smoking cessation; cellular phone
12.  The RAFT Telemedicine Network: Lessons Learnt and Perspectives from a Decade of Educational and Clinical Services in Low- and Middle-Incomes Countries 
Background: The objectives of this paper are to (i) provide an overview of the educational and clinical experiences of the Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine (RAFT) network, (ii) analyze key challenges and lessons learnt throughout a decade of activity, and (iii) draw a vision and perspectives of its sustainability.
Methods: The study was carried out following three main stages: (i) a literature review, (ii) the analysis of key documents, and (iii) discussions with key collaborators of the RAFT.
Results: Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine has been offering an important quantity of educational, clinical, and public health activities during the last decade. The educational activities include the weekly delivery of video-lectures for continuing and post-graduate medical education, the use of virtual patients for training in clinical decision making, research training activities using ICTs and other e-learning activities. The clinical and public health activities include tele-expertise to support health professionals in the management of difficult clinical cases, the implementation of clinical information systems in African hospitals, the deployment of mHealth projects, etc. Since 2010, the RAFT has been extended to the Altiplano in Bolivia and Nepal (in progress).
Lessons Learnt and Perspectives: Important lessons have been learnt from the accumulated experiences throughout these years. These lessons concern: social and organization, human resources, technologies and data security, policy and legislation, and economy and financing. Also, given the increase of the activities and the integration of eHealth and telemedicine in the health system of most of the countries, the RAFT network faces many other challenges and perspectives such as learning throughout life, recognition, and valorization of teaching or learning activities, the impact evaluation of interventions, and the scaling up and transferability out of Africa of RAFT activities. Based on the RAFT experience, effective integration and optimum use of eHealth and telemedicine in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) health systems should take into account the context (resources, infrastructure, and funding), the needs of key stakeholders, and the results derived from theoretical and practical experience. The relevant items highlighted to illustrate the sustainability of the RAFT network and the analyses performed in this study, should serve as discussion basis for the development of eHealth and telemedicine in LMICs.
PMCID: PMC4187539  PMID: 25340048
telemedicine; eHealth; low and middle income countries; Africa; telemedicine network
13.  Health Education through Analogies: Preparation of a Community for Clinical Trials of a Vaccine against Hookworm in an Endemic Area of Brazil 
Obtaining informed consent for clinical trials is especially challenging when working in rural, resource-limited areas, where there are often high levels of illiteracy and lack of experience with clinical research. Such an area, a remote field site in the northeastern part of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, is currently being prepared for clinical trials of experimental hookworm vaccines. This study was conducted to assess whether special educational tools can be developed to increase the knowledge and comprehension of potential clinical trial participants and thereby enable them to make truly informed decisions to participate in such research.
Methodology/Principal Findings
An informational video was produced to explain the work of the research team and the first planned hookworm vaccine trial, using a pedagogical method based on analogies. Seventy-two adults living in a rural community of Minas Gerais were administered a structured questionnaire that assessed their knowledge of hookworm, of research and of the planned hookworm vaccine trial, as well as their attitudes and perceptions about the researchers and participation in future vaccine trials. The questionnaire was administered before being shown the educational video and two months after and the results compared. After viewing the video, significant improvements in knowledge related to hookworm infection and its health impact were observed: using a composite score combining related questions for which correct answers were assigned a value of 1 and incorrect answers a value of 0, participants had a mean score of 0.76 post-video compared to 0.68 pre-video (p = 0.0001). Similar improvements were seen in understanding the purpose of vaccination and the possible adverse effects of an experimental vaccine. Although 100% of participants expressed a positive opinion of the researchers even before viewing the film and over 90% said that they would participate in a hookworm vaccine trial, an increase in the number who expressed fear of being vaccinated with a novel vaccine was seen after viewing the video (51.4% post-video versus 29.2% pre-video). Increases were also seen in the proportion who thought that participation in a vaccine trial would be inconvenient or disrupt their daily activities.
Even in rural, resource-limited populations, educational tools can be specially designed that significantly improve understanding and therefore the likelihood of obtaining truly informed consent for participation in clinical research. The observed changes in the knowledge and perceptions of the research participants about hookworm infection and the experimental hookworm vaccine demonstrate that the video intervention was successful in increasing understanding and that the subjects acquired knowledge pertinent to the planned research.
Author Summary
Conducting clinical trials of new vaccines in rural, resource-limited areas can be challenging since the people living in these areas often have high levels of illiteracy, little experience with clinical research, and limited access to routine health care. Especially difficult is obtaining informed consent for participation in this type of research and ensuring that potential participants adequately understand the potential risks and benefits of participation. The researchers have been preparing a remote field site in the northeastern part of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, for clinical trials of experimental hookworm vaccines. A special educational video was designed based on the method of analogies to introduce new scientific concepts related to the researchers' work and to improve knowledge of hookworm, a disease that is highly prevalent in their community. A questionnaire was administered both before and after the video was shown to a group of adults at the field site, which demonstrated the effectiveness of the video in disseminating knowledge about hookworm infection and about the vaccine being developed. Therefore, even in a rural, resource-limited area, educational tools can be specially designed that significantly improve understanding and therefore the likelihood of obtaining truly informed consent for participation in clinical research.
PMCID: PMC2907418  PMID: 20651933
14.  Ethnographic process evaluation in primary care: explaining the complexity of implementation 
The recent growth of implementation research in care delivery systems has led to a renewed interest in methodological approaches that deliver not only intervention outcome data but also deep understanding of the complex dynamics underlying the implementation process. We suggest that an ethnographic approach to process evaluation, when informed by and integrated with quantitative data, can provide this nuanced insight into intervention outcomes. The specific methods used in such ethnographic process evaluations are rarely presented in detail; our objective is to stimulate a conversation around the successes and challenges of specific data collection methods in health care settings. We use the example of a translational clinical trial among 11 community clinics in Portland, OR that are implementing an evidence-based, health-information technology (HIT)-based intervention focused on patients with diabetes.
Our ethnographic process evaluation employed weekly diaries by clinic-based study employees, observation, informal and formal interviews, document review, surveys, and group discussions to identify barriers and facilitators to implementation success, provide insight into the quantitative study outcomes, and uncover lessons potentially transferable to other implementation projects. These methods captured the depth and breadth of factors contributing to intervention uptake, while minimizing disruption to clinic work and supporting mid-stream shifts in implementation strategies. A major challenge is the amount of dedicated researcher time required.
The deep understanding of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind intervention outcomes that can be gained through an ethnographic approach improves the credibility and transferability of study findings. We encourage others to share their own experiences with ethnography in implementation evaluation and health services research, and to consider adapting the methods and tools described here for their own research.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-014-0607-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4265455  PMID: 25475025
Ethnography; Qualitative methods; Mixed methods; Clinical informatics; Primary care
15.  Health Information Technology to Facilitate Communication Involving Health Care Providers, Caregivers, and Pediatric Patients: A Scoping Review 
Pediatric patients with health conditions requiring follow-up typically depend on a caregiver to mediate at least part of the necessary two-way communication with health care providers on their behalf. Health information technology (HIT) and its subset, information communication technology (ICT), are increasingly being applied to facilitate communication between health care provider and caregiver in these situations. Awareness of the extent and nature of published research involving HIT interventions used in this way is currently lacking.
This scoping review was designed to map the health literature about HIT used to facilitate communication involving health care providers and caregivers (who are usually family members) of pediatric patients with health conditions requiring follow-up.
Terms relating to care delivery, information technology, and pediatrics were combined to search MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL for the years 1996 to 2008. Eligible studies were selected after three rounds of duplicate screening in which all authors participated. Data regarding patient, caregiver, health care provider, HIT intervention, outcomes studied, and study design were extracted and maintained in a Microsoft Access database. Stage of research was categorized using the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions. Quantitative and qualitative descriptive summaries are presented.
We included 104 eligible studies (112 articles) conducted in 17 different countries and representing 30 different health conditions. The most common conditions were asthma, type 1 diabetes, special needs, and psychiatric disorder. Most studies (88, 85%) included children 2 to 12 years of age, and 73 (71%) involved home care settings. Health care providers operated in hospital settings in 96 (92%) of the studies. Interventions featured 12 modes of communication (eg, Internet, intranets, telephone, video conferencing, email, short message service [SMS], and manual downloading of information) used to facilitate 15 categories of functions (eg, support, medication management, education, and monitoring). Numerous patient, caregiver, and health care relevant outcomes have been measured. Most outcomes concerned satisfaction, use, usability, feasibility, and resource use, although behavior changes and quality of life were also reported. Most studies (57 studies, 55%) were pilot phase, with a lesser proportion of development phase (24 studies, 23%) and evaluation phase (11 studies, 11%) studies. HIT interventions addressed several recurring themes in this review: establishing continuity of care, addressing time constraints, and bridging geographical barriers.
HIT used in pediatric care involving caregivers has been implemented differently in a range of disease settings, with varying needs influencing the function, form and synchronicity of information transfer. Although some authors have followed a phased approach to development, evaluation and implementation, a greater emphasis on methodological standards such as the MRC guidance for complex interventions would produce more fruitful programs of development and more useful evaluations in the future. This review will be especially helpful to those deciding on areas where further development or research into HIT for this purpose may be warranted.
PMCID: PMC2956233  PMID: 20562092
Infant; child; adolescent; physician patient relations; communication; medical informatics; applications; computers; Internet
16.  Use of Health Information Technology to Advance Evidence-Based Care: Lessons from the VA QUERI Program 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2010;25(Suppl 1):44-49.
As the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research and Development Service’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) has progressed, health information technology (HIT) has occupied a crucial role in implementation research projects.
We evaluated the role of HIT in VA QUERI implementation research, including HIT use and development, the contributions implementation research has made to HIT development, and HIT-related barriers and facilitators to implementation research.
Key informants from nine disease-specific QUERI Centers.
Documentation analysis of 86 implementation project abstracts followed up by semi-structured interviews with key informants from each of the nine QUERI centers. We used qualitative and descriptive analyses.
We found: (1) HIT provided data and information to facilitate implementation research, (2) implementation research helped to further HIT development in a variety of uses including the development of clinical decision support systems (23 of 86 implementation research projects), and (3) common HIT barriers to implementation research existed but could be overcome by collaborations with clinical and administrative leadership.
Our review of the implementation research progress in the VA revealed interdependency on an HIT infrastructure and research-based development. Collaboration with multiple stakeholders is a key factor in successful use and development of HIT in implementation research efforts and in advancing evidence-based practice.
PMCID: PMC2806955  PMID: 20077151
data; health information technology; quality enhancement research initiative; implementation research; veterans health administration
17.  Veterans Affairs Research on Health Information Technologies for Diabetes Self-Management Support 
Like many patients with diabetes, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients frequently fall short of self-management goals and experience multiple barriers to self-care. Health information technologies (HITs) may provide the tools that patients need to manage their illness under the direction of their primary care team.
We describe several ongoing projects focused on HIT resources for self-management in VA. VA researchers are developing HITs that seek to bolster a variety of potential avenues for self-management support, including patients′ relationships with other patients, connections with their informal care networks, and communication with their health care teams.
Veterans Affairs HIT research projects are developing services that can address the needs of patients with multiple challenges to disease self-care, including multimorbidity, health literacy deficits, and limited treatment access. These services include patient-to-patient interactive voice response (IVR) calling systems, IVR assessments with feedback to informal caregivers, novel information supports for clinical pharmacists based on medication refill data, and enhanced pedometers.
Large health care systems such as the VA can play a critical role in developing HITs for diabetes self-care. To be truly effective, these efforts should include a continuum of studies: observational research to identify barriers to self-management, developmental studies (e.g., usability testing), efficacy trials, and implementation studies to evaluate utility in real-world settings. VA HIT researchers partner with operations to promote the dissemination of efficacious services, and such relationships will be critical to move HIT innovations into practice.
PMCID: PMC2769696  PMID: 19885173
telephone care; chronic disease; disease management; informatics
18.  Reinterpreting Ethnic Patterns among White and African American Men Who Inject Heroin: A Social Science of Medicine Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e452.
Street-based heroin injectors represent an especially vulnerable population group subject to negative health outcomes and social stigma. Effective clinical treatment and public health intervention for this population requires an understanding of their cultural environment and experiences. Social science theory and methods offer tools to understand the reasons for economic and ethnic disparities that cause individual suffering and stress at the institutional level.
Methods and Findings
We used a cross-methodological approach that incorporated quantitative, clinical, and ethnographic data collected by two contemporaneous long-term San Francisco studies, one epidemiological and one ethnographic, to explore the impact of ethnicity on street-based heroin-injecting men 45 years of age or older who were self-identified as either African American or white. We triangulated our ethnographic findings by statistically examining 14 relevant epidemiological variables stratified by median age and ethnicity. We observed significant differences in social practices between self-identified African Americans and whites in our ethnographic social network sample with respect to patterns of (1) drug consumption; (2) income generation; (3) social and institutional relationships; and (4) personal health and hygiene. African Americans and whites tended to experience different structural relationships to their shared condition of addiction and poverty. Specifically, this generation of San Francisco injectors grew up as the children of poor rural to urban immigrants in an era (the late 1960s through 1970s) when industrial jobs disappeared and heroin became fashionable. This was also when violent segregated inner city youth gangs proliferated and the federal government initiated its “War on Drugs.” African Americans had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families. Most of the whites were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime. These historical-structural conditions generated distinct presentations of self. Whites styled themselves as outcasts, defeated by addiction. They professed to be injecting heroin to stave off “dopesickness” rather than to seek pleasure. African Americans, in contrast, cast their physical addiction as an oppositional pursuit of autonomy and pleasure. They considered themselves to be professional outlaws and rejected any appearance of abjection. Many, but not all, of these ethnographic findings were corroborated by our epidemiological data, highlighting the variability of behaviors within ethnic categories.
Bringing quantitative and qualitative methodologies and perspectives into a collaborative dialog among cross-disciplinary researchers highlights the fact that clinical practice must go beyond simple racial or cultural categories. A clinical social science approach provides insights into how sociocultural processes are mediated by historically rooted and institutionally enforced power relations. Recognizing the logical underpinnings of ethnically specific behavioral patterns of street-based injectors is the foundation for cultural competence and for successful clinical relationships. It reduces the risk of suboptimal medical care for an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging patient population. Social science approaches can also help explain larger-scale patterns of health disparities; inform new approaches to structural and institutional-level public health initiatives; and enable clinicians to take more leadership in changing public policies that have negative health consequences.
Bourgois and colleagues found that the African American and white men in their study had a different pattern of drug use and risk behaviors, adopted different strategies for survival, and had different personal histories.
Editors' Summary
There are stark differences in the health of different ethnic groups in America. For example, the life expectancy for white men is 75.4 years, but it is only 69.2 years for African-American men. The reasons behind these disparities are unclear, though there are several possible explanations. Perhaps, for example, different ethnic groups are treated differently by health professionals (with some groups receiving poorer quality health care). Or maybe the health disparities are due to differences across ethnic groups in income level (we know that richer people are healthier). These disparities are likely to persist unless we gain a better understanding of how they arise.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to study the health of a very vulnerable community of people: heroin users living on the streets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The health status of this community is extremely poor, and its members are highly stigmatized—including by health professionals themselves. The researchers wanted to know whether African American men and white men who live on the streets have a different pattern of drug use, whether they adopt varying strategies for survival, and whether they have different personal histories. Knowledge of such differences would help the health community to provide more tailored and culturally appropriate interventions. Physicians, nurses, and social workers often treat street-based drug users, especially in emergency rooms and free clinics. These health professionals regularly report that their interactions with street-based drug users are frustrating and confrontational. The researchers hoped that their study would help these professionals to have a better understanding of the cultural backgrounds and motivations of their drug-using patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Over the course of six years, the researchers directly observed about 70 men living on the streets who injected heroin as they went about their usual lives (this type of research is called “participant observation”). The researchers specifically looked to see whether there were differences between the white and African American men. All the men gave their consent to be studied in this way and to be photographed. The researchers also studied a database of interviews with almost 7,000 injection drug users conducted over five years, drawing out the data on differences between white and African men. The researchers found that the white men were more likely to supplement their heroin use with inexpensive fortified wine, while African American men were more likely to supplement heroin with crack. Most of the white men were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime, and these men tended to consider themselves as destitute outcasts. African American men had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families, and these men tended to consider themselves as professional outlaws. The white men persevered less in attempting to find a vein in which to inject heroin, and so were more likely to inject the drug directly under the skin—this meant that they were more likely to suffer from skin abscesses. The white men generated most of their income from panhandling (begging for money), while the African American men generated most of their income through petty crime and/or through offering services such as washing car windows at gas stations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Among street-based heroin users, there are important differences between white men and African American men in the type of drugs used, the method of drug use, their social backgrounds, the way in which they identify themselves, and the health risks that they take. By understanding these differences, health professionals should be better placed to provide tailored and appropriate care when these men present to clinics and emergency rooms. As the researchers say, “understanding of different ethnic populations of drug injectors may reduce difficult clinical interactions and resultant physician frustration while improving patient access and adherence to care.” One limitation of this study is that the researchers studied one specific community in one particular area of the US—so we should not assume that their findings would apply to street-based heroin users elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a web page on HIV prevention among injection drug users
The World Health Organization has collected documents on reducing the risk of HIV in injection drug users and on harm reduction approaches
The International Harm Reduction Association has information relevant to a global audience on reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities
US-focused information on harm reduction is available via the websites of the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chicago Recovery Alliance
Canada-focused information can be found at the Street Works Web site
The Harm Reduction Journal publishes open-access articles
The CDC has a web page on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities
The Drug Policy Alliance has a web page on drug policy in the United States
PMCID: PMC1621100  PMID: 17076569
19.  Organisational development in general practice: lessons from practice and professional development plans (PPDPs) 
Improving the quality and effectiveness of clinical practice is becoming a key task within all health services. Primary medical care, as organised in the UK is composed of clinicians who work in independent partnerships (general practices) that collaborate with other health care professionals. Although many practices have successfully introduced innovations, there are no organisational development structures in place that support the evolution of primary medical care towards integrated care processes. Providing incentives for attendance at passive educational events and promoting 'teamwork' without first identifying organisational priorities are interventions that have proved to be ineffective at changing clinical processes. A practice and professional development plan feasibility study was evaluated in Wales and provided the experiential basis for a summary of the lessons learnt on how best to guide organisational development systems for primary medical care.
Practice and professional development plans are hybrids produced by the combination of ideas from management (the applied behavioural science of organisational development) and education (self-directed adult learning theories) and, in conceptual terms, address the lack of effectiveness of passive educational strategies by making interventions relevant to identified system wide needs. In the intervention, each practice participated in a series of multidisciplinary workshops (minimum 4) where the process outcome was the production of a practice development plan and a set of personal portfolios, and the final outcome was a realised organisational change.
It was apparent during the project that organisational admission to a process of developmental planning needed to be a stepwise process, where initial interest can lead to a fuller understanding, which subsequently develops into motivation and ownership, sufficient to complete the exercise. The advantages of introducing expert external facilitation were clear: evaluations of internal group processes were possible, strategic issues could be raised and explored and financial probity ensured. These areas are much more difficult to examine when only internal stakeholders are engaged in a planning process.
It is not possible to introduce practice and professional development plans (organisational development and organisational learning projects) in a publicly funded health care system without first addressing existing educational and management structures. Existing systems are based on educational credits for attendance and emerging accountability frameworks (criteria checklists) for clinical governance. Moving to systems that are less summative and more formative, and based on the philosophies of continual quality improvement, require changes to be made in the relevant support systems in order achieve policy proposals.
PMCID: PMC29075  PMID: 11178111
20.  The video head impulse test 
Neurology  2009;73(14):1134-1141.
The head impulse test (HIT) is a useful bedside test to identify peripheral vestibular deficits. However, such a deficit of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) may not be diagnosed because corrective saccades cannot always be detected by simple observation. The scleral search coil technique is the gold standard for HIT measurements, but it is not practical for routine testing or for acute patients, because they are required to wear an uncomfortable contact lens.
To develop an easy-to-use video HIT system (vHIT) as a clinical tool for identifying peripheral vestibular deficits. To validate the diagnostic accuracy of vHIT by simultaneous measures with video and search coil recordings across healthy subjects and patients with a wide range of previously identified peripheral vestibular deficits.
Horizontal HIT was recorded simultaneously with vHIT (250 Hz) and search coils (1,000 Hz) in 8 normal subjects, 6 patients with vestibular neuritis, 1 patient after unilateral intratympanic gentamicin, and 1 patient with bilateral gentamicin vestibulotoxicity.
Simultaneous video and search coil recordings of eye movements were closely comparable (average concordance correlation coefficient rc = 0.930). Mean VOR gains measured with search coils and video were not significantly different in normal (p = 0.107) and patients (p = 0.073). With these groups, the sensitivity and specificity of both the reference and index test were 1.0 (95% confidence interval 0.69–1.0). vHIT measures detected both overt and covert saccades as accurately as coils.
The video head impulse test is equivalent to search coils in identifying peripheral vestibular deficits but easier to use in clinics, even in patients with acute vestibular neuritis.
= bilateral vestibular loss;
= head impulse test;
= inertial measurement unit;
= intratympanic gentamicin;
= video head impulse test;
= vestibular neuritis;
= vestibulo-ocular reflex.
PMCID: PMC2890997  PMID: 19805730
21.  Advancing clinical decision support using lessons from outside of healthcare: an interdisciplinary systematic review 
Greater use of computerized decision support (DS) systems could address continuing safety and quality problems in healthcare, but the healthcare field has struggled to implement DS technology. This study surveys DS experience across multiple non-healthcare disciplines for new insights that are generalizable to healthcare provider decisions. In particular, it sought design principles and lessons learned from the other disciplines that could inform efforts to accelerate the adoption of clinical decision support (CDS).
Our systematic review drew broadly from non-healthcare databases in the basic sciences, social sciences, humanities, engineering, business, and defense: PsychINFO, BusinessSource Premier, Social Sciences Abstracts, Web of Science, and Defense Technical Information Center. Because our interest was in DS that could apply to clinical decisions, we selected articles that (1) provided a review, overview, discussion of lessons learned, or an evaluation of design or implementation aspects of DS within a non-healthcare discipline and (2) involved an element of human judgment at the individual level, as opposed to decisions that can be fully automated or that are made at the organizational level.
Clinical decisions share some similarities with decisions made by military commanders, business managers, and other leaders: they involve assessing new situations and choosing courses of action with major consequences, under time pressure, and with incomplete information. We identified seven high-level DS system design features from the non-healthcare literature that could be applied to CDS: providing broad, system-level perspectives; customizing interfaces to specific users and roles; making the DS reasoning transparent; presenting data effectively; generating multiple scenarios covering disparate outcomes (e.g., effective; effective with side effects; ineffective); allowing for contingent adaptations; and facilitating collaboration. The article provides examples of each feature. The DS literature also emphasizes the importance of organizational culture and training in implementation success. The literature contrasts “rational-analytic” vs. “naturalistic-intuitive” decision-making styles, but the best approach is often a balanced approach that combines both styles. It is also important for DS systems to enable exploration of multiple assumptions, and incorporation of new information in response to changing circumstances.
Complex, high-level decision-making has common features across disciplines as seemingly disparate as defense, business, and healthcare. National efforts to advance the health information technology agenda through broader CDS adoption could benefit by applying the DS principles identified in this review.
PMCID: PMC3524755  PMID: 22900537
22.  Deployment of assistive living technology in a nursing home environment: methods and lessons learned 
With an ever-growing ageing population, dementia is fast becoming the chronic disease of the 21st century. Elderly people affected with dementia progressively lose their autonomy as they encounter problems in their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Hence, they need supervision and assistance from their family members or professional caregivers, which can often lead to underestimated psychological and financial stress for all parties. The use of Ambient Assistive Living (AAL) technologies aims to empower people with dementia and relieve the burden of their caregivers.
The aim of this paper is to present the approach we have adopted to develop and deploy a system for ambient assistive living in an operating nursing home, and evaluate its performance and usability in real conditions. Based on this approach, we emphasise on the importance of deployments in real world settings as opposed to prototype testing in laboratories.
We chose to conduct this work in close partnership with end-users (dementia patients) and specialists in dementia care (professional caregivers). Our trial was conducted during a period of 14 months within three rooms in a nursing home in Singapore, and with the participation of eight dementia patients and two caregivers. A technical ambient assistive living solution, consisting of a set of sensors and devices controlled by a software platform, was deployed in the collaborating nursing home. The trial was preceded by a pre-deployment period to organise several observation sessions with dementia patients and focus group discussions with professional caregivers. A process of ground truth and system’s log data gathering was also planned prior to the trial and a system performance evaluation was realised during the deployment period with the help of caregivers. An ethical approval was obtained prior to real life deployment of our solution.
Patients’ observations and discussions allowed us to gather a set of requirements that a system for elders with mild-dementia should fulfil. In fact, our deployment has exposed more concrete requirements and problems that need to be addressed, and which cannot be identified in laboratory testing. Issues that were neither forecasted during the design phase nor during the laboratory testing surfaced during deployment, thus affecting the effectiveness of the proposed solution. Results of the system performance evaluation show the evolution of system precision and uptime over the deployment phases, while data analysis demonstrates the ability to provide early detection of the degradation of patients’ conditions. A qualitative feedback was collected from caregivers and doctors and a set of lessons learned emerged from this deployment experience. (Continued on next page) (Continued from previous page)
Lessons learned from this study were very useful for our research work and can serve as inspiration for developers and providers of assistive living services. They confirmed the importance of real deployment to evaluate assistive solutions especially with the involvement of professional caregivers. They also asserted the need for larger deployments. Larger deployments will allow to conduct surveys on assistive solutions social and health impact, even though they are time and manpower consuming during their first phases.
PMCID: PMC3691578  PMID: 23565984
Ambient assistive living; Dementia assistance; Real life deployment; Dynamic and adaptable systems; Context aware services
23.  When Health Systems Are Barriers to Health Care: Challenges Faced by Uninsured Mexican Kidney Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54380.
Chronic Kidney Disease disproportionately affects the poor in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Mexico exemplifies the difficulties faced in supporting Renal Replacement Therapy (RRT) and providing equitable patient care, despite recent attempts at health reform. The objective of this study is to document the challenges faced by uninsured, poor Mexican families when attempting to access RRT.
The article takes an ethnographic approach, using interviewing and observation to generate detailed accounts of the problems that accompany attempts to secure care. The study, based in the state of Jalisco, comprised interviews with patients, their caregivers, health and social care professionals, among others. Observations were carried out in both clinical and social settings.
In the absence of organised health information and stable pathways to renal care, patients and their families work extraordinarily hard and at great expense to secure care in a mixed public-private healthcare system. As part of this work, they must navigate challenging health and social care environments, negotiate treatments and costs, resource and finance healthcare and manage a wide range of formal and informal health information.
Examining commonalities across pathways to adequate healthcare reveals major failings in the Mexican system. These systemic problems serve to reproduce and deepen health inequalities. A system, in which the costs of renal care are disproportionately borne by those who can least afford them, faces major difficulties around the sustainability and resourcing of RRTs. Attempts to increase access to renal therapies, therefore, need to take into account the complex social and economic demands this places on those who need access most. This paper further shows that ethnographic studies of the concrete ways in which healthcare is accessed in practice provide important insights into the plight of CKD patients and so constitute an important source of evidence in that effort.
PMCID: PMC3551810  PMID: 23349868
24.  From theory to 'measurement' in complex interventions: Methodological lessons from the development of an e-health normalisation instrument 
Although empirical and theoretical understanding of processes of implementation in health care is advancing, translation of theory into structured measures that capture the complex interplay between interventions, individuals and context remain limited. This paper aimed to (1) describe the process and outcome of a project to develop a theory-based instrument for measuring implementation processes relating to e-health interventions; and (2) identify key issues and methodological challenges for advancing work in this field.
A 30-item instrument (Technology Adoption Readiness Scale (TARS)) for measuring normalisation processes in the context of e-health service interventions was developed on the basis on Normalization Process Theory (NPT). NPT focuses on how new practices become routinely embedded within social contexts. The instrument was pre-tested in two health care settings in which e-health (electronic facilitation of healthcare decision-making and practice) was used by health care professionals.
The developed instrument was pre-tested in two professional samples (N = 46; N = 231). Ratings of items representing normalisation ‘processes’ were significantly related to staff members’ perceptions of whether or not e-health had become ‘routine’. Key methodological challenges are discussed in relation to: translating multi-component theoretical constructs into simple questions; developing and choosing appropriate outcome measures; conducting multiple-stakeholder assessments; instrument and question framing; and more general issues for instrument development in practice contexts.
To develop theory-derived measures of implementation process for progressing research in this field, four key recommendations are made relating to (1) greater attention to underlying theoretical assumptions and extent of translation work required; (2) the need for appropriate but flexible approaches to outcomes measurement; (3) representation of multiple perspectives and collaborative nature of work; and (4) emphasis on generic measurement approaches that can be flexibly tailored to particular contexts of study.
PMCID: PMC3473304  PMID: 22594537
25.  An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e448.
Migrant workers in the United States have extremely poor health. This paper aims to identify ways in which the social context of migrant farm workers affects their health and health care.
Methods and Findings
This qualitative study employs participant observation and interviews on farms and in clinics throughout 15 months of migration with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico. Study participants include more than 130 farm workers and 30 clinicians. Data are analyzed utilizing grounded theory, accompanied by theories of structural violence, symbolic violence, and the clinical gaze. The study reveals that farm working and housing conditions are organized according to ethnicity and citizenship. This hierarchy determines health disparities, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Yet, each group is understood to deserve its place in the hierarchy, migrant farm workers often being blamed for their own sicknesses.
Structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers. Subtle racism serves to reduce awareness of this social context for all involved, including clinicians. The paper concludes with strategies toward improving migrant health in four areas: health disparities research, clinical interactions with migrant laborers, medical education, and policy making.
A qualitative study of migrant Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico shows that structural racism and anti-immigrant practices lead to poor working and living conditions, and poor health.
Editors' Summary
For centuries, recent immigrants have experienced poorer living and working conditions than more established inhabitants, which in turn means that the health of immigrants is often worse. Immigrants often take on the very lowest-paid jobs. One might suppose that in more recent years the increasing prosperity of countries such as the United States and those of western Europe would have reversed this trend. But as recently as 2005 the New York–based Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “Blood, Sweat and Fear,” which documented appalling conditions for the mostly immigrant workers in the US meat and poultry industry. In the UK also, legislation has recently been introduced to try to regulate the activity of “gang masters” who control large groups of immigrant workers. This legislation was triggered by public horror about the deaths in 2004 of 21 immigrant cockle pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in Lancashire. A group of workers at particular risk of poor conditions because of the seasonal and uncertain patterns of work are those who work as farm laborers.
Why Was This Study Done?
There are relatively few studies that have looked in detail at the pattern of health problems among migrant farm workers in the US. Understanding the working conditions of these workers would be of help in understanding more about their health problems and, in particular, how to prevent them. One problem is that few of these workers are seen in the usual health-care settings; few of them have health insurance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The paper's author spent 15 months with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans as they migrated around the western US and Mexico working on farms. He used a type of research called qualitative research, which involved observing and interviewing more than 130 farm workers and 30 health workers on farms and in clinics. He found that working and housing conditions were organized according to ethnicity and citizenship, and that there was an unofficial hierarchy, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Even worse, migrant farm workers were often blamed for their sicknesses by those in charge of them or those from whom they sought help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The author concludes that “structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers.” Furthermore, it seems that “subtle” racism among all involved, including clinicians, reduces awareness and perhaps even allows tacit acceptance of these patterns of health. It seems that targets for specific health interventions for these workers will need to be closely integrated with a broader approach to improving migrant health including medical education and policymaking.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Migration Dialogue regularly consolidates news related to immigration around the world
Global Exchange has information related to fair trade, CAFTA, and other related current events
United Farm Workers has information related to working conditions of migrant laborers
PCUN has information related to migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest
The Border Action Network has information related to the US-Mexico border
Border Links provides education and experiential learning related to the US-Mexico Border
Tierra Nueva and the Peoples Seminary provide social services for migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest and education related to the lives of migrant workers
The Pesticide Action Network of North America provides information related to pesticides and health
The Pesticide Education Center provides detailed lists of the contents of pesticides and their health effects
The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies conducts research and education projects related to international migration
Human Rights Watch publishes and campaigns on many issues, including conditions for workers, such as that on the US meat-packing industry
European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations has a range of information concerning migrants
PMCID: PMC1621098  PMID: 17076567

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