Database architecture, interface design key in researcher's aim for future EMR

January 27, 2011

The government wants everyone’s health history converted into electronic medical records (EMR). And to ensure they achieve their goal, they are providing $19 billion in stimulus money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to encourage physicians and others to adopt health IT.

In 2010, there were more than 300 software and hardware companies vying for the opportunity to sell their technology to the more than 5,000 hospitals in the United States. Download Full Image

The problem? None of the platforms talk to one another and each has its own set of commands, features, learning curve, and perhaps most challenging of all, individual flaws.

For graduate researcher Kyle Larkin from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and professor Aisling Kelliher of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, the challenge of producing transparent and useful electronic medical records requires the implementation of an intelligent database architecture that communicates with many devices and the design of customizable interfaces that make the information sought accessible.

Larkin has been working with a family clinic for observations of interactions between patients and doctors, and the way doctors interact with technology. At the same time, Larkin and Kelliher are analyzing the plethora of interfaces available in the market to determine which ones work best, and which ones fall short of exemplary.

“We are seeing all kinds of things in our study," Larkin said. "We know of cases in which people use a tablet like a desktop because the interface was designed for a desktop. The interface disconnect has practical problems, because a doctor is sometimes having to turn away to type, when they could be paying attention to a patient.”

With the advent of multitouch devices (especially tablets) software manufacturers have been pressured to remain competitive, but instead of rethinking how the interface can be applied, most manufacturers have simply opted to resize their user interfaces for mobile phones or tablets.

Larkin and Kelliher are hoping to develop a digital architecture for medical database storing, management and exchange. In general terms, the creation of a database is not an extreme challenge, but how it behaves and allows for several customized experiences of information is a daunting task – one with major legal implications.

“We want people to have access to their personal information, but we don’t want them to have access to all of their doctor’s notes,” Larkin said. “Another issue is how do we make the information more readable to the patient and the doctor – each with their own needs.”

Larkin believes the database has to be able to hold all information securely, yet allow each individual to have access through different levels of privilege to the information recorded and be able to customize its views in any device.

“The value of this research is in the design and development of technologically efficient solutions that minimize intrusions in the doctor-patient relationship,” explains Kelliher. "Key proposed design innovations include context-aware note-taking and the automated generation of customizable patient-visit summaries."

Kelliher believes that the project's main benefit is a set of EMR software solutions that compliment authentic doctor-patient interactions, in which technology operates as a supportive partner in creating a productive, patient-centered experience.

Kelliher and Larkin have written a short paper describing their research and findings and have submitted it to the 2011 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, a premier event sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Microsoft, Google and Bloomberg.

Their hope is not only for their work to be recognized, but to become players in the future of electronic health records in the United States.

Engineering students among Innovation Challenge finalists

January 27, 2011

Eleven project teams that are among the finalists for Arizona State University’s Innovation Challenge are led by students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The competition gives students opportunities to win funding for entrepreneurial endeavors that focus on innovative ways to help communities on local or global scales – through new product development, business ventures or community service partnerships. Download Full Image

It’s designed to help students hone skills in teamwork, leadership, project development, business planning and public speaking.

This year 30 teams selected from more than 150 applicants have been chosen as finalists. The teams will present project proposals to a panel of judges on Feb. 15.

Winning teams could be presented grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Final teams led by Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students are:

Reactive Mobile Cloud (RMC) RMC will assist football team doctors to immediately identify head injuries among athletes and drive the new technology to be developed for protecting the athletes more efficiently over the span of their career. Team leader: Eric Luster.

Multiplexed Diabetes Management Multiplexed Diabetes Management (MDM) is a transformative technology with long-term impact in diabetes care.  Team leader: Aman Verma.

Augmented Innovations Augmented Innovations creates a novel computer interface for doctors to be able to access and interact with patient data technologies in sterile environments. Team leader: Arash Tadayon.

bioSPY bioSPY is developing a proof-of-concept in a sound business model based on a healthcare need for peptide-enhanced medical devices that confer the specificity required in the administration of personalized medicine. Team leader: Casey Hallberg.

Doc-in-a-Box Doc-in-a-Box is the solution to meet the need for mobile medical clinics in disaster areas, while at the same time recycling unused shipping containers. Team leader: John Walters.

BanglaEPICS Water Distribution Team BanglaEPICS Water Distribution Team is dedicated to finding sustainable water filtration and distribution solutions for a girl's school in Bangladesh; this model will be put into practice, which may then be exported to other school and community sites. Team leader: Eric Lehnhardt.

Project LOCAL Project LOCAL is developing a facility out of a retired shipping container that provides a safe and clean place to give birth; the team is also collaborating with U.S.-based doctors to develop a training program for practicing African midwives to prevent deaths by hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labor and hypertensive diseases. Team leader: Susanna Young.

Team STRIDE Team STRIDE (Strides for Stephen) is an integrated effort to develop a mobility assistance device for Stephen Ogalo, who was crippled through a bicycle accident near his village in Kenya; his device must be made from sustainable materials and will allow him to maintain it with minimal resources. Team leader: Ben Teplitzky.

SP2 Energy SP2 Energy has developed a unique solar power generator and is collaborating with another Innovation Challenge applicant, Project LOCAL, to provide power for Project LOCAL's container clinic.  Team leader: Aaron Peshlakai.

Water Savers The Clarkdale Sustainability Park is developing a recreation park/tourism site by recharging waste water into the ground and reusing it. Team leader: Juana Grado.

Project Upepo Project Upepo seeks to focus sustainable technology to produce meaningful change by combining education, employment, and electrification, via wind technology. Team leaders: engineering student Kyle Karber and Emily Kempe, College of Public Programs.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering