The University of Washington (UW) Academic Medical Center has received a three-year, $2.028 million grant from the National Library of Medicine to develop and evaluate new applications of the National Information Infrastructure in the care of patients. Commonly called the “Information Superhighway,” the National Information Infrastructure is a partnership between the U.S. government, private industry and public institutions. Its goal is to create a seamless interweaving of computer and communications tech nology for education, commerce, health care, libraries, natural resource management and other uses.
In Washington, D.C., today, Oct. 7, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Donna Shalala announced the awarding of this and similar grants to 18 other institutions nationwide.
The UW grant will extend UW Health Sciences Center informational and consultation resources electronically to clinics, physicians’ offices and patient homes in Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and will address issues raised by new communi cations technologies in health care, such as protecting patient confidentiality and preventing unauthorized access. The principal investigator is Dr. Sherrilynne Fuller, associate professor of medical education, director of medical informatics for the UW School of Medicine and director of the UW Health Sciences Libraries and Information Center.
“The WAMI region is an ideal testing ground for health-care applications of new communications technology, because of the strong relationships we have already built over the past 25 years with communities and health professionals across the Pacific Northw est and Alaska through our regionalized medical education program,” said Dr. Philip J. Fialkow, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are pleased that this grant from the National Library of Medicine will strengthen electronic communication links within the region and enhance our commitment to sharing information vital to the care of patients, including new medical research findings. It will move us toward our vision of making information and decision making tools avai lable at the time and place of need, particularly for clinicians practicing in geographically remote locations.”
The project, entitled From Bench to Bedside and Beyond, will measure the effects of a regional information infrastructure on health-care delivery, research and public health. It will expand on previous and current UW projects in the testing of electronic communications and data transfer technologies in medicine. These endeavors include a demonstration project on rural telemedicine consultations and the Integrated Advanced Information Management System, which has improved access to computerized resources f or UW health sciences departments and local affiliates. Several UW departments with experience in information technology will be involved.
Among the many project goals are:
Provide clinicians and public health agencies with convenient, timely access to vital information when and where they need it.
Evaluate ways to ensure security during electronic transfer by checking the identity of the clinician and patient and by encoding the information.
Make retrieval of information more logical from the caregivers’ perspective by linking databases, information resources and services.
Improve the electronic delivery and archiving of medical images.
Offer access to library resources, software tools for clinical decision making, bibliographic databases, practice guidelines, expert systems and other automated systems, literature searches such as Medline, and electronic copies of articles from professio nal and research journals.
Create better integration for the exchange of data among public health and clinical practice sites.
Develop multi-function workstations for all types of communication, data access and transfer, and information management.
Measure costs and savings that result from increased access to information.
In addition to Fuller, co-investigators are: Dr. Thomas E. Norris, associate professor of family medicine, assistant dean for regional affairs and rural health and medical director, UW Physicians Network; Dr. James LoGerfo, professor of medicine and medic al director, Harborview Medical Center; and Dr. Joseph Chu, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and epidemiology, and assistant dean for curriculum.
Participating units from the UW include: Computing and Communications, Medical Centers Inform ation Systems (Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center), Health Sciences Libraries and Information Center, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and several departments in the UW School of Medicine.
The University of Alaska-Anchorage, a partner university in the WAMI Program, also received a National Library of Medicine grant to evaluate the effects of telemedicine technologies on the health-care system in rural Alaska, particularly in improving acce ss to care for Native Alaskans living in isolated parts of the Bush. Dr. Frederick Pearce of the Applied Science Laboratory is the principal investigator. The Alaska study will use Internet and modem technology as a strategy for cost-containment.
The UW and the University of Alaska-Anchorage will look at ways to link their projects.