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26.  An evidential reasoning based model for diagnosis of lymph node metastasis in gastric cancer 
Background
Lymph node metastasis (LNM) in gastric cancer is a very important prognostic factor affecting long-term survival. Currently, several common imaging techniques are used to evaluate the lymph node status. However, they are incapable of achieving both high sensitivity and specificity simultaneously. In order to deal with this complex issue, a new evidential reasoning (ER) based model is proposed to support diagnosis of LNM in gastric cancer.
Methods
There are 175 consecutive patients who went through multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) consecutively before the surgery. Eight indicators, which are serosal invasion, tumor classification, tumor enhancement pattern, tumor thickness, number of lymph nodes, maximum lymph node size, lymph node station and lymph node enhancement are utilized to evaluate the tumor and lymph node through CT images. All of the above indicators reflect the biological behavior of gastric cancer. An ER based model is constructed by taking the above indicators as input index. The output index determines whether LNM occurs for the patients, which is decided by the surgery and histopathology. A technique called k-fold cross-validation is used for training and testing the new model. The diagnostic capability of LNM is evaluated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. A Radiologist classifies LNM by adopting lymph node size for comparison.
Results
134 out of 175 cases are cases of LNM, and the remains are not. Eight indicators have statistically significant difference between the positive and negative groups. The sensitivity, specificity and AUC of the ER based model are 88.41%, 77.57% and 0.813, respectively. However, for the radiologist evaluating LNM by maximum lymph node size, the corresponding values are only 63.4%, 75.6% and 0.757. Therefore, the proposed model can obtain better performance than the radiologist. Besides, the proposed model also outperforms other machine learning methods.
Conclusions
According to the biological behavior information of gastric cancer, the ER based model can diagnose LNM effectively and preoperatively.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-123
PMCID: PMC3827004  PMID: 24195733
Gastric cancer; Lymph node metastasis; Evidential reasoning
28.  Measuring the impact of a health information exchange intervention on provider-based notifiable disease reporting using mixed methods: a study protocol 
Background
Health information exchange (HIE) is the electronic sharing of data and information between clinical care and public health entities. Previous research has shown that using HIE to electronically report laboratory results to public health can improve surveillance practice, yet there has been little utilization of HIE for improving provider-based disease reporting. This article describes a study protocol that uses mixed methods to evaluate an intervention to electronically pre-populate provider-based notifiable disease case reporting forms with clinical, laboratory and patient data available through an operational HIE. The evaluation seeks to: (1) identify barriers and facilitators to implementation, adoption and utilization of the intervention; (2) measure impacts on workflow, provider awareness, and end-user satisfaction; and (3) describe the contextual factors that impact the effectiveness of the intervention within heterogeneous clinical settings and the HIE.
Methods/Design
The intervention will be implemented over a staggered schedule in one of the largest and oldest HIE infrastructures in the U.S., the Indiana Network for Patient Care. Evaluation will be conducted utilizing a concurrent design mixed methods framework in which qualitative methods are embedded within the quantitative methods. Quantitative data will include reporting rates, timeliness and burden and report completeness and accuracy, analyzed using interrupted time-series and other pre-post comparisons. Qualitative data regarding pre-post provider perceptions of report completeness, accuracy, and timeliness, reporting burden, data quality, benefits, utility, adoption, utilization and impact on reporting workflow will be collected using semi-structured interviews and open-ended survey items. Data will be triangulated to find convergence or agreement by cross-validating results to produce a contextualized portrayal of the facilitators and barriers to implementation and use of the intervention.
Discussion
By applying mixed research methods and measuring context, facilitators and barriers, and individual, organizational and data quality factors that may impact adoption and utilization of the intervention, we will document whether and how the intervention streamlines provider-based manual reporting workflows, lowers barriers to reporting, increases data completeness, improves reporting timeliness and captures a greater portion of communicable disease burden in the community.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-121
PMCID: PMC3819468  PMID: 24171799
Evaluation; Health information exchange; Mixed methods; Public health reporting
29.  Autonomic care platform for optimizing query performance 
Background
As the amount of information in electronic health care systems increases, data operations get more complicated and time-consuming. Intensive Care platforms require a timely processing of data retrievals to guarantee the continuous display of recent data of patients. Physicians and nurses rely on this data for their decision making. Manual optimization of query executions has become difficult to handle due to the increased amount of queries across multiple sources. Hence, a more automated management is necessary to increase the performance of database queries. The autonomic computing paradigm promises an approach in which the system adapts itself and acts as self-managing entity, thereby limiting human interventions and taking actions. Despite the usage of autonomic control loops in network and software systems, this approach has not been applied so far for health information systems.
Methods
We extend the COSARA architecture, an infection surveillance and antibiotic management service platform for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), with self-managed components to increase the performance of data retrievals. We used real-life ICU COSARA queries to analyse slow performance and measure the impact of optimizations. Each day more than 2 million COSARA queries are executed. Three control loops, which monitor the executions and take action, have been proposed: reactive, deliberative and reflective control loops. We focus on improvements of the execution time of microbiology queries directly related to the visual displays of patients’ data on the bedside screens.
Results
The results show that autonomic control loops are beneficial for the optimizations in the data executions in the ICU. The application of reactive control loop results in a reduction of 8.61% of the average execution time of microbiology results. The combined application of the reactive and deliberative control loop results in an average query time reduction of 10.92% and the combination of reactive, deliberative and reflective control loops provides a reduction of 13.04%.
Conclusions
We found that by controlled reduction of queries’ executions the performance for the end-user can be improved. The implementation of autonomic control loops in an existing health platform, COSARA, has a positive effect on the timely data visualization for the physician and nurse.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-120
PMCID: PMC3828013  PMID: 24160892
30.  Measuring preferences for analgesic treatment for cancer pain: How do African-Americans and Whites perform on choice-based conjoint (CBC) analysis experiments? 
Background
Conjoint Analysis (CA) can serve as an important tool to study health disparities and unique factors underlying decision-making in diverse subgroups. However, methodological advancements are needed in exploiting this application of CA. We compared the internal and external predictive validity and inter-temporal stability of Choice-based-Conjoint (CBC) analysis between African-Americans and Whites in the clinical context of preferences for analgesic treatment for cancer pain.
Methods
We conducted a prospective study with repeated-measures at two time-points (T1 = baseline; T2 = 3-months). African-Americans (n = 102); and Whites (n = 139) with cancer-related pain were recruited from outpatient oncology clinics in Philadelphia. Informed by pilot work, a computer-assisted CBC experiment was developed using 5 attributes of analgesic treatment: type of analgesic; expected pain relief; type of side-effects; severity of side-effects; and out-of-pocket cost. The design included 2 choice alternatives, 12 random tasks, 2 holdout tasks, and maximum of 6 levels per attribute. The internal and external predictive validity of CBC was estimated using Root Likelihood (RLH) and Mean Absolute Error (MAE), respectively. Inter-temporal stability was assessed using Cohen’s kappa.
Results
Whites predominantly traded based on “pain relief” whereas African-Americans traded based on “type of side-effects”. At both time-points, the internal validity (RLH) was slightly higher for Whites than for African-Americans. The RLH for African-Americans improved at T2, possibly due to the learning effect. Lexicographic (dominant) behavior was observed in 29% of choice datasets; Whites were more likely than African-Americans to engage in a lexicographic behavior (60% vs. 40%). External validity (MAE) was slightly better for African-Americans than for Whites at both time-points (MAE: T1 = 3.04% for African-Americans and 4.02% for Whites; T2 = 8.04% for African-Americans; 10.24% for Whites). At T2, the MAE increased for both groups possibly reflecting an increase in the complexity of pain treatment decision-making based on expectations (T1) as opposed to reality (T2). The inter-temporal stability was fair for CBC attributes between T1 and T2 (kappa = 0.28, 95% CI: 0.24-0.32) and was not predicted by demographics including race.
Conclusions
While we found slight group differences, overall the internal and external predictive validity of CBC was comparable between African-Americans and Whites. We discuss some areas to investigate and improve internal and external predictive validity of CBC experiments.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-118
PMCID: PMC3924351  PMID: 24134426
31.  The influence of medical testing on patients’ health: an overview from the gynecologists’ perspective 
Background
A medical tests may influence the health of patients by guiding clinical decisions, such as treatment in case of a positive test result. However, a medical test can influence the health of patients through other mechanisms as well, like giving reassurance. To make a clinical recommendation about a medical test, we should be aware of the full range of effects of that test on patients. This requires an understanding of the range of effects that medical testing can have on patients. This study evaluates the mechanisms through which medical testing can influence patients’ health, other than the effect on clinical management, from a gynecologist’s perspective.
Methods
A qualitative study in which explorative focus groups were conducted with gynecologists, gynecological residents and gynecological M.D. researchers (n = 43). Discussions were transcribed verbatim. Transcriptions were coded inductively and analyzed by three researchers.
Results
All participants contributed various clinical examples in which medical testing had influenced patients’ health. Clinical examples illustrated that testing, in itself or in interaction with contextual factors, may provoke a wide range of effects on patients. Our data showed that testing can influence the doctor’s perceptions of the patients’ appraisal of their illness, their perceived control, or the doctor-patient relationship. This may lead to changes in psychological, behavioral, and/or medical outcomes, both favorably or unfavorably. The data were used to construct a conceptual framework of effects of medical testing on patients.
Conclusions
Besides supporting clinical decision making, medical testing may have favorable or unfavorable effects on patients’ health though several mechanisms.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-117
PMCID: PMC3842635  PMID: 24106969
Test evaluation; Patient outcomes; Diagnostic test; Methodology; Qualitative research
32.  Managing personal health information in distributed research network environments 
Background
Studying rare outcomes, new interventions and diverse populations often requires collaborations across multiple health research partners. However, transferring healthcare research data from one institution to another can increase the risk of data privacy and security breaches.
Methods
A working group of multi-site research programmers evaluated the need for tools to support data security and data privacy. The group determined that data privacy support tools should: 1) allow for a range of allowable Protected Health Information (PHI); 2) clearly identify what type of data should be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and 3) help analysts identify which protected health information data elements are allowable in a given project and how they should be protected during data transfer. Based on these requirements we developed two performance support tools to support data programmers and site analysts in exchanging research data.
Results
The first tool, a workplan template, guides the lead programmer through effectively communicating the details of multi-site programming, including how to run the program, what output the program will create, and whether the output is expected to contain protected health information. The second performance support tool is a checklist that site analysts can use to ensure that multi-site program output conforms to expectations and does not contain protected health information beyond what is allowed under the multi-site research agreements.
Conclusions
Together the two tools create a formal multi-site programming workflow designed to reduce the chance of accidental PHI disclosure.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-116
PMCID: PMC3851487  PMID: 24099117
HIPAA; Protected health information; Distributed research; Privacy; Security
33.  Generic medicines: an evaluation of the accuracy and accessibility of information available on the internet 
Background
Internationally, generic medicines are increasingly seen as a key strategy to reduce healthcare expenditure, therefore awareness and knowledge transfer regarding generic medicines are valid areas of research. Although the Internet is a frequently used source of medical information, the accuracy of material found online is variable. The aim of this study was to evaluate information provided on the Internet regarding generic medicines in terms of quality of information and readability.
Methods
Internet searches for information regarding generic medicine were completed, with a pre-defined search term, using the Google search engine, in five English-speaking geographical regions (US, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia). Search results likely to be looked at by a searcher were collated and assessed for the quality of generic medicine-related information in the websites, using a novel customised Website Quality Assessment (WQA) tool; and for readability, using existing methods. The reproducibility of the tools between two independent reviewers was evaluated and correlations between WQA score, readability statistics and Google search engine results page ranking were assessed.
Results
Wikipedia was the highest-ranking search result in 100% of searches performed. Considerable variability of search results returned between different geographical regions was observed, including that websites identified in the Australian search generated the highest number of country specific websites; searches performed using computers with Irish, British, American and Canadian IP addresses appear to be more similar to each other than the google.com search performed in Australia; and the Canadian google.ca results show a notable difference from any of the other searches. Of the 24 websites assessed, none scored a perfect WQA score. Notably, strong correlation was seen between WQA and readability scores and ranking on google.com search results.
Conclusions
This novel evaluation of websites providing information on generic medicines showed that, of the websites likely to be seen by a searcher, none demonstrated a combination of scoring highly on quality of information (as evinced by WQA score) and readability. Therefore, there is a gap in online knowledge provision on this topic which, if filled by a website designed using the WQA tool developed in this study, has an improved likelihood of ranking highly in google.com search results.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-115
PMCID: PMC3851567  PMID: 24099099
Generic medicine; Internet; Medical information; Patient education; Google; Readability
34.  The value of usability testing for Internet-based adolescent self-management interventions: “Managing Hemophilia Online” 
Background
As adolescents with hemophilia approach adulthood, they are expected to assume responsibility for their disease management. A bilingual (English and French) Internet-based self-management program, “Teens Taking Charge: Managing Hemophilia Online,” was developed to support adolescents with hemophilia in this transition. This study explored the usability of the website and resulted in refinement of the prototype.
Methods
A purposive sample (n=18; age 13–18; mean age 15.5 years) was recruited from two tertiary care centers to assess the usability of the program in English and French. Qualitative observations using a “think aloud” usability testing method and semi-structured interviews were conducted in four iterative cycles, with changes to the prototype made as necessary following each cycle. This study was approved by research ethics boards at each site.
Results
Teens responded positively to the content and appearance of the website and felt that it was easy to navigate and understand. The multimedia components (videos, animations, quizzes) were felt to enrich the experience. Changes to the presentation of content and the website user-interface were made after the first, second and third cycles of testing in English. Cycle four did not result in any further changes.
Conclusions
Overall, teens found the website to be easy to use. Usability testing identified end-user concerns that informed improvements to the program. Usability testing is a crucial step in the development of Internet-based self-management programs to ensure information is delivered in a manner that is accessible and understood by users.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-113
PMCID: PMC3856537  PMID: 24094082
Usability testing; Internet; Patient education; Self-management; Adolescent; Hemophilia
35.  Improved de-identification of physician notes through integrative modeling of both public and private medical text 
Background
Physician notes routinely recorded during patient care represent a vast and underutilized resource for human disease studies on a population scale. Their use in research is primarily limited by the need to separate confidential patient information from clinical annotations, a process that is resource-intensive when performed manually. This study seeks to create an automated method for de-identifying physician notes that does not require large amounts of private information: in addition to training a model to recognize Protected Health Information (PHI) within private physician notes, we reverse the problem and train a model to recognize non-PHI words and phrases that appear in public medical texts.
Methods
Public and private medical text sources were analyzed to distinguish common medical words and phrases from Protected Health Information. Patient identifiers are generally nouns and numbers that appear infrequently in medical literature. To quantify this relationship, term frequencies and part of speech tags were compared between journal publications and physician notes. Standard medical concepts and phrases were then examined across ten medical dictionaries. Lists and rules were included from the US census database and previously published studies. In total, 28 features were used to train decision tree classifiers.
Results
The model successfully recalled 98% of PHI tokens from 220 discharge summaries. Cost sensitive classification was used to weight recall over precision (98% F10 score, 76% F1 score). More than half of the false negatives were the word “of” appearing in a hospital name. All patient names, phone numbers, and home addresses were at least partially redacted. Medical concepts such as “elevated white blood cell count” were informative for de-identification. The results exceed the previously approved criteria established by four Institutional Review Boards.
Conclusions
The results indicate that distributional differences between private and public medical text can be used to accurately classify PHI. The data and algorithms reported here are made freely available for evaluation and improvement.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-112
PMCID: PMC3907029  PMID: 24083569
Natural language processing (L01.224.065.580); Confidentiality (I01.880.604.473.650.500); Pattern recognition automated (L01.725); Electronic Health Records (E05.318.308.940.968.625.500)
36.  On the alert: future priorities for alerts in clinical decision support for computerized physician order entry identified from a European workshop 
Background
Clinical decision support (CDS) for electronic prescribing systems (computerized physician order entry) should help prescribers in the safe and rational use of medicines. However, the best ways to alert users to unsafe or irrational prescribing are uncertain. Specifically, CDS systems may generate too many alerts, producing unwelcome distractions for prescribers, or too few alerts running the risk of overlooking possible harms. Obtaining the right balance of alerting to adequately improve patient safety should be a priority.
Methods
A workshop funded through the European Regional Development Fund was convened by the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust to assess current knowledge on alerts in CDS and to reach a consensus on a future research agenda on this topic. Leading European researchers in CDS and alerts in electronic prescribing systems were invited to the workshop.
Results
We identified important knowledge gaps and suggest research priorities including (1) the need to determine the optimal sensitivity and specificity of alerts; (2) whether adaptation to the environment or characteristics of the user may improve alerts; and (3) whether modifying the timing and number of alerts will lead to improvements. We have also discussed the challenges and benefits of using naturalistic or experimental studies in the evaluation of alerts and suggested appropriate outcome measures.
Conclusions
We have identified critical problems in CDS, which should help to guide priorities in research to evaluate alerts. It is hoped that this will spark the next generation of novel research from which practical steps can be taken to implement changes to CDS systems that will ultimately reduce alert fatigue and improve the design of future systems.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-111
PMCID: PMC3850158  PMID: 24083548
Clinical Decision Support Systems; Medical Order Entry Systems
37.  Teleconsultation in children with abdominal pain: a comparison of physician triage recommendations and an established paediatric telephone triage protocol 
Background
Quality assessment and continuous quality feedback to the staff is crucial for safety and efficiency of teleconsultation and triage. This study evaluates whether it is feasible to use an already existing telephone triage protocol to assess the appropriateness of point-of-care and time-to-treat recommendations after teleconsultations.
Methods
Based on electronic patient records, we retrospectively compared the point-of-care and time-to-treat recommendations of the paediatric telephone triage protocol with the actual recommendations of trained physicians for children with abdominal pain, following a teleconsultation.
Results
In 59 of 96 cases (61%) these recommendations were congruent with the paediatric telephone protocol. Discrepancies were either of organizational nature, due to factors such as local referral policies or gatekeeping insurance models, or of medical origin, such as milder than usual symptoms or clear diagnosis of a minor ailment.
Conclusions
A paediatric telephone triage protocol may be applicable in healthcare systems other than the one in which it has been developed, if triage rules are adapted to match the organisational aspects of the local healthcare system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-110
PMCID: PMC3849753  PMID: 24079719
38.  A Socio-technical assessment of the success of picture archiving and communication systems: the radiology technologist’s perspective 
Background
With the increasing prevalence of Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) in healthcare institutions, there is a growing need to measure their success. However, there is a lack of published literature emphasizing the technical and social factors underlying a successful PACS.
Methods
An updated Information Systems Success Model was utilized by radiology technologists (RTs) to evaluate the success of PACS at a large medical center in Taiwan. A survey, consisting of 109 questionnaires, was analyzed by Structural Equation Modeling.
Results
Socio-technical factors (including system quality, information quality, service quality, perceived usefulness, user satisfaction, and PACS dependence) were proven to be effective measures of PACS success. Although the relationship between service quality and perceived usefulness was not significant, other proposed relationships amongst the six measurement parameters of success were all confirmed.
Conclusions
Managers have an obligation to improve the attributes of PACS. At the onset of its deployment, RTs will have formed their own subjective opinions with regards to its quality (system quality, information quality, and service quality). As these personal concepts are either refuted or reinforced based on personal experiences, RTs will become either satisfied or dissatisfied with PACS, based on their perception of its usefulness or lack of usefulness. A satisfied RT may play a pivotal role in the implementation of PACS in the future.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-109
PMCID: PMC3849362  PMID: 24053458
Socio-technical evaluation; Information systems success model; Picture archiving and communication systems (PACS)
39.  Implementing computerised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks in primary care for clinical care and research: a process evaluation 
Background
Paper-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks have promoted a preventive approach to primary care and provided data to support research at the Inala Indigenous Health Service, south-west Brisbane, Australia. Concerns about the limitations of paper-based health checks prompted us to change to a computerised system to realise potential benefits for clinical services and research capability. We describe the rationale, implementation and anticipated benefits of computerised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks in one primary health care setting.
Methods
In May 2010, the Inala Indigenous Health Service commenced a project to computerise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child, adult, diabetic, and antenatal health checks. The computerised health checks were launched in September 2010 and then evaluated for staff satisfaction, research consent rate and uptake. Ethical approval for health check data to be used for research purposes was granted in December 2010.
Results
Three months after the September 2010 launch date, all but two health checks (378 out of 380, 99.5%) had been completed using the computerised system. Staff gave the system a median mark of 8 out of 10 (range 5-9), where 10 represented the highest level of overall satisfaction. By September 2011, 1099 child and adult health checks, 138 annual diabetic checks and 52 of the newly introduced antenatal checks had been completed. These numbers of computerised health checks are greater than for the previous year (2010) of paper-based health checks with a risk difference of 0.07 (95% confidence interval 0.05, 0.10). Additionally, two research projects based on computerised health check data were underway.
Conclusions
The Inala Indigenous Health Service has demonstrated that moving from paper-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks to a system using computerised health checks is feasible and can facilitate research. We expect computerised health checks will improve clinical care and continue to enable research projects using validated data, reflecting the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s priorities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-108
PMCID: PMC3849740  PMID: 24053425
Computerised medical record systems; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; Primary health care
40.  Does introduction of a Patient Data Management System (PDMS) improve the financial situation of an intensive care unit? 
Background
Patient Data Management Systems (PDMS) support clinical documentation at the bedside and have demonstrated effects on completeness of patient charting and the time spent on documentation. These systems are costly and raise the question if such a major investment pays off. We tried to answer the following questions: How do costs and revenues of an intensive care unit develop before and after introduction of a PDMS? Can higher revenues be obtained with improved PDMS documentation? Can we present cost savings attributable to the PDMS?
Methods
Retrospective analysis of cost and reimbursement data of a 25 bed Intensive Care Unit at a German University Hospital, three years before (2004–2006) and three years after (2007–2009) PDMS implementation.
Results
Costs and revenues increased continuously over the years. The profit of the investigated ICU was fluctuating over the years and seemingly depending on other factors as well. We found a small increase in profit in the year after the introduction of the PDMS, but not in the following years. Profit per case peaked at 1039 € in 2007, but dropped subsequently to 639 € per case. We found no clear evidence for cost savings after the PDMS introduction. Our cautious calculation did not consider additional labour costs for IT staff needed for system maintenance.
Conclusions
The introduction of a PDMS has probably minimal or no effect on reimbursement. In our case the observed increase in profit was too small to amortize the total investment for PDMS implementation.
This may add some counterweight to the literature, where expectations for tools such as the PDMS can be quite unreasonable.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-107
PMCID: PMC3847636  PMID: 24041117
PDMS; CPOE; Return of investment; Costs; Intensive care unit
41.  Diabetic retinopathy risk prediction for fundus examination using sparse learning: a cross-sectional study 
Background
Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the major disability in diabetic patients. Although early management has shown to prevent vision loss, diabetic patients have a low rate of routine ophthalmologic examination. Hence, we developed and validated sparse learning models with the aim of identifying the risk of DR in diabetic patients.
Methods
Health records from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANES) V-1 were used. The prediction models for DR were constructed using data from 327 diabetic patients, and were validated internally on 163 patients in the KNHANES V-1. External validation was performed using 562 diabetic patients in the KNHANES V-2. The learning models, including ridge, elastic net, and LASSO, were compared to the traditional indicators of DR.
Results
Considering the Bayesian information criterion, LASSO predicted DR most efficiently. In the internal and external validation, LASSO was significantly superior to the traditional indicators by calculating the area under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operating characteristic. LASSO showed an AUC of 0.81 and an accuracy of 73.6% in the internal validation, and an AUC of 0.82 and an accuracy of 75.2% in the external validation.
Conclusion
The sparse learning model using LASSO was effective in analyzing the epidemiological underlying patterns of DR. This is the first study to develop a machine learning model to predict DR risk using health records. LASSO can be an excellent choice when both discriminative power and variable selection are important in the analysis of high-dimensional electronic health records.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-106
PMCID: PMC3847617  PMID: 24033926
Sparse learning; LASSO; Diabetic retinopathy; Clinical decision support; Risk assessment
42.  Using value of information to guide evaluation of decision supports for differential diagnosis: is it time for a new look? 
Background
Decision support systems for differential diagnosis have traditionally been evaluated on the basis of criteria how sensitively and specifically they are able to identify the correct diagnosis established by expert clinicians.
Discussion
This article questions whether evaluation criteria pertaining to identifying the correct diagnosis are most appropriate or useful. Instead it advocates evaluation of decision support systems for differential diagnosis based on the criterion of maximizing value of information.
Summary
This approach quantitatively and systematically integrates several important clinical management priorities, including avoiding serious diagnostic errors of omission and avoiding harmful or expensive tests.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-105
PMCID: PMC3846909  PMID: 24020989
Value of information; Decision support; Differential diagnosis
43.  The human resource information system: a rapid appraisal of Pakistan’s capacity to employ the tool 
Background
Human resources are an important building block of the health system. During the last decade, enormous investment has gone into the information systems to manage human resources, but due to the lack of a clear vision, policy, and strategy, the results of these efforts have not been very visible. No reliable information portal captures the actual state of human resources in Pakistan’s health sector. The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided technical support for the assessment of the existing system and development of a comprehensive Human Resource Information System (HRIS) in Pakistan.
Methods
The questions in the WHO-HRIS Assessment tool were distributed into five thematic groups. Purposively selected (n=65) representatives from the government, private sector, and development partners participated in this cross sectional study, based on their programmatic affiliations.
Results
Fifty-five percent of organizations and departments have an independent Human Resources (HR) section managed by an establishment branch and are fully equipped with functional computers. Forty-five organizations (70%) had HR rules, regulations and coordination mechanisms, yet these are not implemented. Data reporting is mainly in paper form, on prescribed forms (51%), registers (3%) or even plain papers (20%). Data analysis does not give inputs to the decision making process and dissemination of information is quite erratic. Most of the organizations had no feedback mechanism for cross checking the HR data, rendering it unreliable.
Conclusion
Pakistan is lacking appropriate HRIS management. The current HRIS indeed has a multitude of problems. In the wake of 2011 reforms within the health sector, provinces are even in a greater need for planning their respective health department services and must work on the deficiencies and inefficiencies of their HRIS so that the gaps and HR needs are better aligned for reaching the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-104
PMCID: PMC3848578  PMID: 24016066
Human resources for health; Human resource information system; Health system; Pakistan
44.  On the usage of health records for the design of virtual patients: a systematic review 
Background
The process of creating and designing Virtual Patients for teaching students of medicine is an expensive and time-consuming task. In order to explore potential methods of mitigating these costs, our group began exploring the possibility of creating Virtual Patients based on electronic health records. This review assesses the usage of electronic health records in the creation of interactive Virtual Patients for teaching clinical decision-making.
Methods
The PubMed database was accessed programmatically to find papers relating to Virtual Patients. The returned citations were classified and the relevant full text articles were reviewed to find Virtual Patient systems that used electronic health records to create learning modalities.
Results
A total of n = 362 citations were found on PubMed and subsequently classified, of which n = 28 full-text articles were reviewed. Few articles used unformatted electronic health records other than patient CT or MRI scans. The use of patient data, extracted from electronic health records or otherwise, is widespread. The use of unformatted electronic health records in their raw form is less frequent. Patient data use is broad and spans several areas, such as teaching, training, 3D visualisation, and assessment.
Conclusions
Virtual Patients that are based on real patient data are widespread, yet the use of unformatted electronic health records, abundant in hospital information systems, is reported less often. The majority of teaching systems use reformatted patient data gathered from electronic health records, and do not use these electronic health records directly. Furthermore, many systems were found that used patient data in the form of CT or MRI scans. Much potential research exists regarding the use of unformatted electronic health records for the creation of Virtual Patients.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-103
PMCID: PMC3846661  PMID: 24011027
Virtual patients; Electronic health records; Decision making
45.  Medical practices display power law behaviors similar to spoken languages 
Background
Medical care commonly involves the apprehension of complex patterns of patient derangements to which the practitioner responds with patterns of interventions, as opposed to single therapeutic maneuvers. This complexity renders the objective assessment of practice patterns using conventional statistical approaches difficult.
Methods
Combinatorial approaches drawn from symbolic dynamics are used to encode the observed patterns of patient derangement and associated practitioner response patterns as sequences of symbols. Concatenating each patient derangement symbol with the contemporaneous practitioner response symbol creates “words” encoding the simultaneous patient derangement and provider response patterns and yields an observed vocabulary with quantifiable statistical characteristics.
Results
A fundamental observation in many natural languages is the existence of a power law relationship between the rank order of word usage and the absolute frequency with which particular words are uttered. We show that population level patterns of patient derangement: practitioner intervention word usage in two entirely unrelated domains of medical care display power law relationships similar to those of natural languages, and that–in one of these domains–power law behavior at the population level reflects power law behavior at the level of individual practitioners.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that patterns of medical care can be approached using quantitative linguistic techniques, a finding that has implications for the assessment of expertise, machine learning identification of optimal practices, and construction of bedside decision support tools.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-102
PMCID: PMC3766655  PMID: 24007376
Power law; Natural languages; Mechanical ventilation; Dialysis; Medical practices
46.  Evaluation of syndromic algorithms for detecting patients with potentially transmissible infectious diseases based on computerised emergency-department data 
Background
The objective of this study was to ascertain the performance of syndromic algorithms for the early detection of patients in healthcare facilities who have potentially transmissible infectious diseases, using computerised emergency department (ED) data.
Methods
A retrospective cohort in an 810-bed University of Lyon hospital in France was analysed. Adults who were admitted to the ED and hospitalised between June 1, 2007, and March 31, 2010 were included (N=10895). Different algorithms were built to detect patients with infectious respiratory, cutaneous or gastrointestinal syndromes. The performance parameters of these algorithms were assessed with regard to the capacity of our infection-control team to investigate the detected cases.
Results
For respiratory syndromes, the sensitivity of the detection algorithms was 82.70%, and the specificity was 82.37%. For cutaneous syndromes, the sensitivity of the detection algorithms was 78.08%, and the specificity was 95.93%. For gastrointestinal syndromes, the sensitivity of the detection algorithms was 79.41%, and the specificity was 81.97%.
Conclusions
This assessment permitted us to detect patients with potentially transmissible infectious diseases, while striking a reasonable balance between true positives and false positives, for both respiratory and cutaneous syndromes. The algorithms for gastrointestinal syndromes were not specific enough for routine use, because they generated a large number of false positives relative to the number of infected patients. Detection of patients with potentially transmissible infectious diseases will enable us to take precautions to prevent transmission as soon as these patients come in contact with healthcare facilities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-101
PMCID: PMC3766242  PMID: 24004720
Emergency service; Hospital; Syndromic surveillance; Detection algorithm; Infection control; Sensitivity and specificity; Population surveillance
47.  Mobile phones and social structures: an exploration of a closed user group in rural Ghana 
Background
In the Millennium Villages Project site of Bonsaaso, Ghana, the Health Team is using a mobile phone closed user group to place calls amongst one another at no cost.
Methods
In order to determine the utilization and acceptability of the closed user group amongst users, social network analysis and qualitative methods were used. Key informants were identified and interviewed. The key informants also kept prospective call journals. Billing statements and de-identified call data from the closed user group were used to generate data for analyzing the social structure revealed by the network traffic.
Results
The majority of communication within the closed user group was personal and not for professional purposes. The members of the CUG felt that the group improved their efficiency at work.
Conclusions
The methods used present an interesting way to investigate the social structure surrounding communication via mobile phones. In addition, the benefits identified from the exploration of this closed user group make a case for supporting mobile phone closed user groups amongst professional groups.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-100
PMCID: PMC3847220  PMID: 24007331
mHealth; Social network analysis; Closed user group; Mobile phones; Health team
48.  Benefits of a physician-facing tablet presentation of patient symptom data: comparing paper and electronic formats 
Background
Providing patient information to physicians in usable form is of high importance. Electronic presentation of patient data may have benefits in efficiency and error rate reduction for these physician facing interfaces. Using a cancer symptom measurement tool (the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI)) we assessed the usability of patient data in its raw paper form and compared that to presentation on two electronic presentation formats of different sizes.
Methods
In two separate experiments, undergraduates completed two identical six-part questionnaires on two twenty-patient MDASI data sets. In Experiment 1, participants completed one questionnaire using a paper packet and the other questionnaire using an in-house designed iPad application. In Experiment 2, MDASI data was evaluated using an iPad and iPod Touch. Participants assessed the usability of the devices directly after use. In a third experiment, medical professionals evaluated the paper and iPad interfaces in order to validate the findings from Experiment 1.
Results
Participants were faster and more accurate answering questions about patients when using the iPad. The results from the medical professionals were similar. No appreciable accuracy, task time, or usability differences were observed between the iPad and iPod Touch.
Conclusions
Overall, the use of our tablet interface increased the accuracy and speed that users could extract pertinent information from a multiple patient MDASI data set compared to paper. Reducing the size of the interface did not negatively affect accuracy, speed, or usability. Generalization of the results to other physician facing interfaces is discussed.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-99
PMCID: PMC3844411  PMID: 24004844
Human engineering; Data display; Task performance and analysis; System usability; MDASI
49.  A practical approach for incorporating dependence among fields in probabilistic record linkage 
Background
Methods for linking real-world healthcare data often use a latent class model, where the latent, or unknown, class is the true match status of candidate record-pairs. This commonly used model assumes that agreement patterns among multiple fields within a latent class are independent. When this assumption is violated, various approaches, including the most commonly proposed loglinear models, have been suggested to account for conditional dependence.
Methods
We present a step-by-step guide to identify important dependencies between fields through a correlation residual plot and demonstrate how they can be incorporated into loglinear models for record linkage. This method is applied to healthcare data from the patient registry for a large county health department.
Results
Our method could be readily implemented using standard software (with code supplied) to produce an overall better model fit as measured by BIC and deviance. Finding the most parsimonious model is known to reduce bias in parameter estimates.
Conclusions
This novel approach identifies and accommodates conditional dependence in the context of record linkage. The conditional dependence model is recommended for routine use due to its flexibility for incorporating conditional dependence and easy implementation using existing software.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-97
PMCID: PMC3766252  PMID: 24001000
50.  An analysis of online health information on schizophrenia or related conditions: a cross-sectional survey 
Background
Around 20% of those who seek health information online, search specifically for mental health. However, little is known about the nature of the online health information offered by two European countries, Finland and Greece, which are characterized by markedly differing levels of Internet access and online health information seeking. This study aims to assess, describe and compare websites, written in two European, non-English languages (Finnish and Greek) that appear first after performing an online search concerning schizophrenia or related conditions.
Methods
The first 20 results from four search terms (searched in Finnish and Greek) in the Web search engine ‘Google’ were screened. A total of 160 websites were retrieved (80 Finnish, 80 Greek) and evaluated using a preformulated coding system which consisted of websites’ indicators, such as: types, characteristics, accountability, interactivity, aesthetics and content. Differences between websites were evaluated with Chi-Square or Fisher’s Exact tests for categorical data and independent t-tests for parametric data.
Results
Twenty-four Finnish and thirty-four Greek websites (36% in total) were included. Almost two-thirds (62%, n=36) were owned by an organization, compared to 17% (n=10) by an individual. In both countries, aesthetics had the highest score (possible range 0–4, mean = 2.6, SD = .62), while interactivity the lowest (range 0–5, mean = 1.79, SD = .87). There were no statistically significant differences among the accountability, interactivity and aesthetics scores of the Finnish and Greek websites.
Conclusions
All assessed indicators suggest there is a need to improve Finnish and Greek online information about schizophrenia or related conditions. The poor website interactivity is of particular concern given the challenges faced by the target group. The findings can be used to guide the development and dissemination of online mental health information aimed at Finnish and Greek online health-seekers.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-98
PMCID: PMC3847364  PMID: 23992448
Consumer health information; Information retrieval; Internet; Schizophrenia

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