Some of the people on the health data team at The Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, from left: Joseph Hurley, Kassaye Yitbarek Yigzaw, Luis Marco-Ruiz, Meskerem Asfaw Hailemichael, Torje D. Henriksen and Johan Gustav Bellika. Photo: Lene Lundberg

Improving clinical decision support

Doctors, researchers and patients need improved computerized clinical decision support. The Norwegian Centre for E-health Research is working on it.

Tromsø, Norway - (HealthTechWire / News) - “We want to contribute so that doctors, researchers and patients can benefit from the use of health and care data. At the same time, it is very important and also mandatory, as stated in The Declaration of Helsinki, to maintain the privacy and security of patients,” say researchers Kassaye Yitbarek Yigzaw and Meskerem Asfaw Hailemichael from The Norwegian Centre for E-health Research.

Together with Professor and coworker Johan Gustav Bellika, they are long convinced about the importance of computerized clinical decision support.

But privacy concerns has meant that health data has been kept locally for the most part – in one doctor’s office, or in a single hospital.

Making data available

Things are changing for the better, the e-Health researchers say.

Some years ago, Professor Bellika developed the Snow disease surveillance system.

The platform automatically extracts anonymous data from electronic health record systems in general practice offices, hospitals, microbiology laboratories and make the anonymous data available for decision support systems, supporting patients and health professionals.

“The data can be used for several types of e-consultation services for patients, as well as health service collaboration. It enables doctors to view how diseases spread. Such anonymous data can also enable self-care for patients in a whole new way,” says Professor Bellika.

The Snow system has made it possible for physicians to detect epidemics and outbreaks quicker, get earlier diagnosis and faster treatment. This is something everyone benefits from, and especially the most vulnerable of us: small children, the elderly and those who battle chronic diseases.    

In 2017, Kassaye Yitbarek Yigzaw finished his PhD. It discussed how researchers can get access to patients’ electronic health data, without compromising their identity or privacy. His study kept the health data team moving in a positive direction.     

Building knowledge

For “stubborn” researchers there is only one way, and that is forward. So they keep building knowledge, step by step. In January 2018, they joined a new big project, which is funded by The Research Council of Norway, entitled the Norwegian Primary Care Research Network.

It is led by the University of Bergen, with all other academia collaborating, along with some other research institutions.

The goal is to see how they can give primary care doctors more effective clinical decision support, which will benefit all patients, including offering knowledge about epidemiology and best practice examples.

“This new project builds on what we have learned with the Snow system. It is important to collect data about disease from different sources, from hospitals, as well as general physicians. Then we get the most complete picture,” says Bellika. 

Emnet – a method

Another method developed by the e-Health researchers will also contribute in the new national project.

Meskerem Asfaw Hailemichael has been deeply involved in the team’s Emnet project, which means ‘trust’ in Amharic, which is the official language in Ethiopia.

“We found a way to securely analyze health data that is generated by the doctors. It is not necessary to reveal the patients’ personal information to other health professionals or researchers, to be able to use new medical knowledge for the benefit of all patients and society,” she says.

SOME FACTS:

Health data:
Data collected about patients’ diseases, diagnoses and treatment. The information is stored in Electronic Health Records (EHR).

Where do we find health data?
In computer systems in hospitals, nursing homes and general physicians’ offices.

Who needs access to health data?
Doctors and other health professionals, researchers and the patient. The patient and the doctor need it for primary use. Researchers need the data summarized from populations – what we call secondary use of data. 

How can we use health data?
To find best practice, disease surveillance, projects, research and for policy-making. 

Why do research on health data?
To develop new and better treatments and medicines. To collect data and compare different data makes it possible to predict and prevent. We study how computer systems can be useful for patients and health services. 

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The Norwegian Centre for E-health Research

The Norwegian Centre for E-health Research produces and disseminates research and knowledge about e-health. The goal is to serve research-based knowledge, summaries and systematic reviews within e-health. Our centre is multidisciplinary, and our appx 70 researchers and project managers have diverse backgrounds and experiences. The centre is a WHO collaborating centre within telemedicine and e-health and is a committed member of several international e-health organisations.

Siva Innovation Centre Breivika 4th floor Sykehusveien. 23
9019 Tromsø
Norway

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