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1.  Determinants of frequency and longevity of hospital encounters' data use 
The identification of clinically relevant information enables improvement in user interfaces and in data management. However, it is difficult to identify what information is important in daily clinical care, and what is used occasionally. This study aims to determine for how long clinical documents are used in a Hospital Information System (HIS).
The access logs of 3 years of usage of a HIS were analysed concerning report departmental source, type of hospital encounter, and inpatient encounter ICD-9-CM main diagnosis. Reports median life indicates the median time elapsed between information creation and its usage. The models that better explains report views over time were explored.
The number of report views in the study period was 656 583. Fifty two percent of the reports viewed by medical doctors in emergency encounters were from previous encounters - 21% at outpatient attendance, 19% in inpatient (wards) and 12% during emergency encounters. In an inpatient setting, 20% of the reports viewed were produced in previous encounters. The median life of information in documents is 1.5 days for emergency, 4.8 days for inpatient and 37.8 days for outpatient encounters. Immune-haemotherapy reports reach their median lives faster (7 days) than clinical pathology (15 days), gastroenterology (80 days) and pathology (118 days). The median life of reports produced in inpatient encounters varied from 36 days for neoplasms as the main diagnosis to 0.7 days for injury and poisoning. The model with the best fit (R2 > 0.9) was the exponential.
The usage of past patient information varied significantly according to patient age, type of information, type of hospital encounter and medical cause (main diagnosis) for the encounter. The exponential model is a good fit to model how the reports are seen over time, so the design of user interfaces and repository management algorithms should take it in consideration.
PMCID: PMC2846873  PMID: 20233389
2.  Reviewing the integration of patient data: how systems are evolving in practice to meet patient needs 
The integration of Information Systems (IS) is essential to support shared care and to provide consistent care to individuals – patient-centred care. This paper identifies, appraises and summarises studies examining different approaches to integrate patient data from heterogeneous IS.
The literature was systematically reviewed between 1995–2005 to identify articles mentioning patient records, computers and data integration or sharing.
Of 3124 articles, 84 were included describing 56 distinct projects. Most of the projects were on a regional scale. Integration was most commonly accomplished by messaging with pre-defined templates and middleware solutions. HL7 was the most widely used messaging standard. Direct database access and web services were the most common communication methods. The user interface for most systems was a Web browser. Regarding the type of medical data shared, 77% of projects integrated diagnosis and problems, 67% medical images and 65% lab results. More recently significantly more IS are extending to primary care and integrating referral letters.
It is clear that Information Systems are evolving to meet people's needs by implementing regional networks, allowing patient access and integration of ever more items of patient data. Many distinct technological solutions coexist to integrate patient data, using differing standards and data architectures which may difficult further interoperability.
PMCID: PMC1919361  PMID: 17565667
3.  Diagnostic omission errors in acute paediatric practice: impact of a reminder system on decision-making 
Diagnostic error is a significant problem in specialities characterised by diagnostic uncertainty such as primary care, emergency medicine and paediatrics. Despite wide-spread availability, computerised aids have not been shown to significantly improve diagnostic decision-making in a real world environment, mainly due to the need for prolonged system consultation. In this study performed in the clinical environment, we used a Web-based diagnostic reminder system that provided rapid advice with free text data entry to examine its impact on clinicians' decisions in an acute paediatric setting during assessments characterised by diagnostic uncertainty.
Junior doctors working over a 5-month period at four paediatric ambulatory units consulted the Web-based diagnostic aid when they felt the need for diagnostic assistance. Subjects recorded their clinical decisions for patients (differential diagnosis, test-ordering and treatment) before and after system consultation. An expert panel of four paediatric consultants independently suggested clinically significant decisions indicating an appropriate and 'safe' assessment. The primary outcome measure was change in the proportion of 'unsafe' workups by subjects during patient assessment. A more sensitive evaluation of impact was performed using specific validated quality scores. Adverse effects of consultation on decision-making, as well as the additional time spent on system use were examined.
Subjects attempted to access the diagnostic aid on 595 occasions during the study period (8.6% of all medical assessments); subjects examined diagnostic advice only in 177 episodes (30%). Senior House Officers at hospitals with greater number of available computer workstations in the clinical area were most likely to consult the system, especially out of working hours. Diagnostic workups construed as 'unsafe' occurred in 47/104 cases (45.2%); this reduced to 32.7% following system consultation (McNemar test, p < 0.001). Subjects' mean 'unsafe' workups per case decreased from 0.49 to 0.32 (p < 0.001). System advice prompted the clinician to consider the 'correct' diagnosis (established at discharge) during initial assessment in 3/104 patients. Median usage time was 1 min 38 sec (IQR 50 sec – 3 min 21 sec). Despite a modest increase in the number of diagnostic possibilities entertained by the clinician, no adverse effects were demonstrable on patient management following system use. Numerous technical barriers prevented subjects from accessing the diagnostic aid in the majority of eligible patients in whom they sought diagnostic assistance.
We have shown that junior doctors used a Web-based diagnostic reminder system during acute paediatric assessments to significantly improve the quality of their diagnostic workup and reduce diagnostic omission errors. These benefits were achieved without any adverse effects on patient management following a quick consultation.
PMCID: PMC1654143  PMID: 17087835
4.  Assessment of the potential impact of a reminder system on the reduction of diagnostic errors: a quasi-experimental study 
Computerized decision support systems (DSS) have mainly focused on improving clinicians' diagnostic accuracy in unusual and challenging cases. However, since diagnostic omission errors may predominantly result from incomplete workup in routine clinical practice, the provision of appropriate patient- and context-specific reminders may result in greater impact on patient safety. In this experimental study, a mix of easy and difficult simulated cases were used to assess the impact of a novel diagnostic reminder system (ISABEL) on the quality of clinical decisions made by various grades of clinicians during acute assessment.
Subjects of different grades (consultants, registrars, senior house officers and medical students), assessed a balanced set of 24 simulated cases on a trial website. Subjects recorded their clinical decisions for the cases (differential diagnosis, test-ordering and treatment), before and after system consultation. A panel of two pediatric consultants independently provided gold standard responses for each case, against which subjects' quality of decisions was measured. The primary outcome measure was change in the count of diagnostic errors of omission (DEO). A more sensitive assessment of the system's impact was achieved using specific quality scores; additional consultation time resulting from DSS use was also calculated.
76 subjects (18 consultants, 24 registrars, 19 senior house officers and 15 students) completed a total of 751 case episodes. The mean count of DEO fell from 5.5 to 5.0 across all subjects (repeated measures ANOVA, p < 0.001); no significant interaction was seen with subject grade. Mean diagnostic quality score increased after system consultation (0.044; 95% confidence interval 0.032, 0.054). ISABEL reminded subjects to consider at least one clinically important diagnosis in 1 in 8 case episodes, and prompted them to order an important test in 1 in 10 case episodes. Median extra time taken for DSS consultation was 1 min (IQR: 30 sec to 2 min).
The provision of patient- and context-specific reminders has the potential to reduce diagnostic omissions across all subject grades for a range of cases. This study suggests a promising role for the use of future reminder-based DSS in the reduction of diagnostic error.
PMCID: PMC1513379  PMID: 16646956
5.  Decision tools in health care: focus on the problem, not the solution 
Systematic reviews or randomised-controlled trials usually help to establish the effectiveness of drugs and other health technologies, but are rarely sufficient by themselves to ensure actual clinical use of the technology. The process from innovation to routine clinical use is complex. Numerous computerised decision support systems (DSS) have been developed, but many fail to be taken up into actual use. Some developers construct technologically advanced systems with little relevance to the real world. Others did not determine whether a clinical need exists. With NHS investing £5 billion in computer systems, also occurring in other countries, there is an urgent need to shift from a technology-driven approach to one that identifies and employs the most cost-effective method to manage knowledge, regardless of the technology. The generic term, 'decision tool' (DT), is therefore suggested to demonstrate that these aids, which seem different technically, are conceptually the same from a clinical viewpoint.
Many computerised DSSs failed for various reasons, for example, they were not based on best available knowledge; there was insufficient emphasis on their need for high quality clinical data; their development was technology-led; or evaluation methods were misapplied. We argue that DSSs and other computer-based, paper-based and even mechanical decision aids are members of a wider family of decision tools. A DT is an active knowledge resource that uses patient data to generate case specific advice, which supports decision making about individual patients by health professionals, the patients themselves or others concerned about them. The identification of DTs as a consistent and important category of health technology should encourage the sharing of lessons between DT developers and users and reduce the frequency of decision tool projects focusing only on technology. The focus of evaluation should become more clinical, with the impact of computer-based DTs being evaluated against other computer, paper- or mechanical tools, to identify the most cost effective tool for each clinical problem.
We suggested the generic term 'decision tool' to demonstrate that decision-making aids, such as computerised DSSs, paper algorithms, and reminders are conceptually the same, so the methods to evaluate them should be the same.
PMCID: PMC1397808  PMID: 16426446

Results 1-5 (5)