Health Record Banks vs. Health Information Exchange

The advantages of the HRB model are many, as enumerated by a recent article published by the Biomedical Informatics Think Tank (BITT). HRBs would allow an individual to see all of their information in one place without any need to aggregate the information as required by current approaches to HIEs. Applications could be developed to allow users of HRBs to set up notifications for themselves or their loved ones in the event that their account was accessed by a healthcare provider in an emergency situation. Patients could use their HRB to monitor fitness plans and connect with healthcare providers about things like nutrition, physical therapy, and chronic disease management plans.

In order for HRBs to work, though, they will require large-scale participation—from patients, healthcare providers, mobile device manufacturers, and application developers. Several companies have made an effort to popularize user-initiated HRBs, but none has had notable success. Microsoft has a little-known HRB service called HealthVault, and Harvard University’s Data Privacy Lab unveiled an HRB called MyDataCan in 2012–but few updates have been announced about the system since the initial unveiling. Google Health was launched in 2008 and then cancelled in 2011. In a blog post about the discontinuation of the failed HRB service, Google stated,

When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information…

Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread  adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.

Unfortunately, for the time being, it seems that the HRB model remains a concept that is easy to buy into, but difficult to sell.

Alabama Mystery Illness Solved

According to a press release, testing at a state lab and at the CDC showed that different groups of pathogens were present. All seven Alabama patients were tested and six of the samples came back positive for either influenza A, rhinovirus or a combination of the two. Three patients were found to have bacterial pneumonia.

Southeast Alabama is home to a military base and several aircraft plants that have frequent international travel. Public Health officials took extraordinary caution due to the recent emergence of H7N9 and novel coronavirus in Asia and the Middle East. To date, there have been 131 confirmed cases of H7N9, including 32 deaths. Globally, from September 2012 to date, the WHO has been informed of a total of 44 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection, including 22 deaths.

Department spokesperson Dr. Mary McIntyre, assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention, said “While enhanced surveillance associated with this cluster is no longer necessary, health care providers are encouraged to continue routine year-round influenza surveillance activities and submit specimens to the state laboratory for testing.”

Novel Coronavirus Infects Hospital Workers in France and Saudi Arabia

Since the beginning of May, a total of 21 cases and nine deaths have been reported form the outbreak linked to a healthcare facility in Saudi Arabia. From September 2012 to date, the WHO has been informed of a global total of 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including 20 deaths, from 6 countries–France, Germany, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom.

The WHO has also issued a press release in which they state:

At this point, several urgent actions are needed. The most important ones are the need for countries, both inside and outside of the region, to increase their levels of awareness among all people but especially among staff working in their health systems and to increase their levels of surveillance about this new infection. In Saudi Arabia, we have seen the importance of better surveillance. When new cases are found, as is likely, it is critical for countries to report these cases and related information urgently to WHO as required by the International Health Regulations because this is the basis for effective international alertness, preparedness and response.

The press release goes on to suggest that “one of the reasons why more cases have been identified in [Saudi Arabia] may be because they have gone ahead to strengthen their surveillance system and lab capacities and network.”

Video: Superbugs are Closer Than You Think

The ETC research team, based at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), believes that while we can’t beat the bacteria, we can slow them down by recognizing that antibiotics are a natural resource that we must use conservatively if we want them to remain effective. By issuing regular research and commentary on topics such as health care-associated infections, trends in drug resistance, and the costs—both human and economic—posed by rising resistance rates, ETC is laying groundwork for the comprehensive solutions needed to combat this problem.