eHealth: Consumer Health Informatics



What is Consumer Health Information?

The American Informatics Association defines consumer health informatics as a form of medical information technology geared towards delivering better health-related decision-making based from the consumer's perspective. With the aid of modern technology, CHI segues as a buffer between patients and medical organizations for a better outcome in terms of information exchange and communication.
As Medical Informatics continues to expand at an exponential rate, there is an increasing interest in reaching consumers and patients directly through computers and telecommunication systems. Consumer Health Informatics is the branch of Medical Informatics that:
  • Analyzes consumers' need for information
  • Studies and implements methods of making that information available to consumers
  • Models and integrates consumers' preferences into medical information systems

In essence, CHI is the discipline that aids in bridging the gap between patients and health resources. Consumer Health Informatics also includes technologies that focus on patients as the primary users to health information [1] . With that being said, Consumer Health Informatics is one of the many forms of eHealth. CHI in conjunction with these technologies allows patients to remotely communicate with physicians or other healthcare professionals. This branch also encompasses the use of information resources, communications, remote monitoring, videoconferencing, and telepresence.

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Purpose of CHI:

CHI identifies, evaluates, and synthesizes research on the effects of informatics tools and decision aids on patient decisions about medical screening and treatments.
Consumer health informatics is the branch of medical informatics that analyses consumers' needs for information; studies and implements methods of making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers' preferences into medical information systems. Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science, and is perhaps the most challenging and rapidly expanding field in medical informatics; it is paving the way for health care in the information age. In the following video, Dr. Mostashari elaborates on the helping hand that CHI poses in the health field:
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History

CHI began with the consumer movement of the 1970s. There existed an increased demand for information and there was greater participation in medical decision making. During the 1980s, the prominence of the self-help phenomenon became pretty evident. This resulted in a massive increase in health information for a more general audience. This was followed by the widespread use of the internet, which increased dramatically in the 1990s.

Goals

As mentioned, CHI analyzed the needs of consumers in relation to information access and distribution. Many times, the goal is to develop, test and implement IT solutions that support the health and communication needs of patients. These solutions should incorporate the preferences of the consumer while aligning it to the health-care information systems in place. This could result in the creation of a slew of eHealth tools in which the consumer can access and use to better their knowledge and educate themselves on their health. With a better informed consumer and the physician having easier access to patient information, the consumer can now join in and have an active role in their personal healthcare. The end goal is basically to attain generally shared healthcare decision-making. This can promote the idea of self-health and having the ability to take action when needed.

Vision

It has been proposed that consumer health informatics be regarded as a whole new academic discipline, one that should be devoted to the exploration of the new possibilities that informatics is creating for consumers in relation to health and health care issues. In it's broadest sense, CHI should involve [2] :
  • analyzing, formalizing, and modeling consumer preferences and information needs
  • developing methods to integrate these into information management in health promotion, clinical, educational, and research activities
  • investigating the effectiveness and efficiency of computerized information, telecommunication, and network systems for consumers in relation to their participation in health and healthcare related activities
  • studying the effects of these systems on public health, the patient-professional relationship, and society

Ideally, consumers should have the ability to access valid and relevant information about their health status. In reality, there are still many variables needed to be taken into consideration and barriers that need to be overcome before facilitating the promotion of health literacy and limitless access to information.
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Issues

There are a number of barriers in CHI, but the main issues that are prevalent in consumer health informatics are the:
  • Privacy and security of health information
  • Unequal access to information technology
  • Quality of web-based information

Related Disciplines

CHI is noted to stand at point that intersects other, maybe more well-known disciplines such as [3] :
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Public Health
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Education
  • Library Science
  • Communication Science


Applications

CHESS - Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support Systems
CHESS is a real-world example of eHealth Tools. It is a type of consumer health informatics systems that is made to bridge the gap between patients/consumers and health information. CHESS attempts to provide not only expert information, but decision aids and emotional support for those with Cancer who use the system. The system features information services, a resource dictionary, and communication services like discussion groups and decision services. These services are aimed at aiding in the decision making involved with choosing treatment options for patients. This system has been around for quite some time and has evolved with technology and the internet. It has been noted that CHESS started out as a DOS-based system run from a local computer, and now it runs on smartphones [4] . It's also been stated that the Internet has influenced CHESS in an enormous number of ways. For example, things like online discussion groups were not nearly as effective before the internet, but now they are the heart of key components that make up CHESS [5] .

To see current studies and projects, click Here.


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Other applications include the use of personal health records, smart cards, clinical e-mail communication, online pharmacies, interactive health communication technologies (IHC), and other technologies which engage consumers in shared and collaborative decision-making.



Purpose of CHI:

CHI identifies, evaluates, and synthesizes research on the effects of informatics tools and decision aids on patient decisions about medical screening and treatments.
Medical Informatics has expanded rapidly over the past couple of years. After decades of development of information systems designed primarily for physicians and other healthcare managers and professionals, there is an increasing interest in reaching consumers and patients directly through computers and telecommunications systems. Consumer health informatics is the branch of medical informatics that analyses consumers' needs for information; studies and implements methods of making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers' preferences into medical information systems. Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science, and is perhaps the most challenging and rapidly expanding field in medical informatics; it is paving the way for health care in the information age. In the following video, Dr. Mostashari elaborates on the helping hand that CHI poses in the health field:



Relevant CHI products:

The following table is a compilation that was developed by CHI based on a cross-section of the most popular consumer digital goods. Popularity of digital goods was determined based on project team and subject matter expert estimation of the consumer digital product classes exhibiting the most successful diffusion in recent years in terms of number of users and sales.

Product Name
Product type
Description
Dropbox
Digital
An online storage system where data is stored using cloud computing and interface.
Flickr
Digitial
An Online storage site where users can organize, backup, and share photos using cloud computing.
Ipod Shuffle
Hybrid
iPod shuffle is a small flash-based, screenless, durable, digital music player that holds a limited number of songs and has minimal features.
Blackboard
Digital
Blackboard software is used to manage e-learning, and has been extended to transaction processing, eCommerce, and online communities.
Netflix
Digital
Netflix is a DVD rental and streaming video company.
Pandora
Digital
Pandora is a digital streaming radio station that creates individual content based on users’ preferences and song rating.

Benefits of CHI:

The use of electronic technology allows for a more efficient and standardized method of facilitating care information. CHI includes technology and better patient involvement to provide advantages and benefits to the health care system. In the following link, Jacquelyn Burkell emphasizes the benefits of CHI: Journal of the Medical Library Association


Resources


http://chess.wisc.edu/chess/projects/about_chess.aspx

References


  1. ^ Biomedical Informatics by Shortliffe and Cimino (3rd Edition).
  2. ^ http://www.jmir.org/2001/2/e19/
  3. ^ http://www.bmj.com/content/320/7251/1713.extract
  4. ^ http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/072710/page6
  5. ^ http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/072710/page6