UPMC, Google Health, CMU and dbMotion develop novel PHR technology

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The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) today announced the development of personal health record (PHR) technology that may soon give patients the ability to add critical health information to the electronic health records maintained by hospitals and physicians. UPMC completed the proof-of-concept project in collaboration with Google Health, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and technology partner dbMotion.

“We are delighted to collaborate with UPMC on this innovative project, which is specifically intended to empower patients”

Although PHRs are not new to health care—the idea was introduced originally in the late 1970s—development has gained momentum with the escalating use of electronic health records (EHRs) and the recent promise of federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Progress toward electronic PHRs has been hindered, however, by the difficulty in aggregating data from a wide range of unconnected “host” technologies, and presenting that information to patients and physicians in such a way as to make the information understandable and genuinely usable.

UPMC and its partners have overcome this obstacle with a flexible, service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based interoperability platform, developed by dbMotion, a company in which UPMC invested as part of a strategic partnership. This platform shares and organizes patient information in a meaningful way, regardless of the system or format in which the data were originally stored. “The interoperability platform allows us to connect disparate EHRs and automatically gather information from various patient-facing applications throughout the UPMC system, including ambulatory and acute care settings,” says William Fera, M.D., vice president, medical technologies, and medical director, interoperability, at UPMC.

What distinguishes UPMC’s integration with Google Health—expected to be launched for patients this spring—is the fact that the data will be aggregated from throughout UPMC inpatient and ambulatory settings and the sharing ultimately will be bi-directional, meaning that health care providers can share information securely with patients through the PHR and vice versa. The data will be part of the electronic medical record, readily accessible to clinicians and usable in decision support tools. “This is the first step in creating an interoperable, actionable PHR,” says Dr. Fera. “Both patients and physicians will have access to the information they need to truly work as partners in patient care.”

The H. John Heinz III College at CMU was charged with execution of the demonstration project in fall 2009. Six candidates in the Master in Information Systems Management (MISM) program worked under the direction of faculty advisor Rema Padman, Ph.D., to design, implement and test the concept. Within six weeks, they were able to move discrete patient data through the dbMotion platform to populate the Google Health PHR and, shortly after, to pass information back into the UPMC system. “We found the dbMotion technology to be highly sophisticated, with extensive functionality that enables it to work seamlessly with other advanced solutions like Google Health,” says Dr. Padman, professor of management science and healthcare informatics at the Heinz College.

“We are delighted to collaborate with UPMC on this innovative project, which is specifically intended to empower patients,” notes Ramayya Krishnan, Ph.D., dean of the Heinz College. “Heinz College’s iLab leverages faculty expertise in health care and information technology and the skills and capabilities of MISM students to foster such collaboration between academia and industry partners.”

Google and dbMotion are strategic partners of UPMC’s in the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), a groundbreaking collaboration among innovators in health care, information technology and communications that showcases the patient-centered health care model developed at UPMC. The solutions highlighted at the CCM in Pittsburgh address the concerns of both caregivers and patients: enhancing access to care, enabling consistent quality, improving outcomes and reducing costs.

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