Saturday, May 27, 2006

Health Day at WWW2006

Yesterday I attended the "Health Day" at the WWW2006 conference at the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh.

Due to flight delays I missed the opening plenary presentation - but found out that Richard Granger, who was billed as delivering this session had not attended.

I arrived part way through the presentation by Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. His powerpoint slides demonstrate the overview he gave of NICE and the way web technologies have enabled distributed working and will become more important in the future. An interesting point was the increasing emphasis on "societal preferences" alongside medical research.

The next speaker was John Loonsk Director, Office of Interoperability and Standards at the (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in Health and Human Services) in the USA. He identified many of the challenges facing the health care system in the US (many of which are remarkably similar to the UK) and, in particular, issues around role based access. View his powerpoint.

After a quick coffee, during which I met man friends and colleagues, old and new, I attended a session by invited speakers around "Web based support for Healthcare Professionals".

Alan Rector is Professor of Medical Informatics in the Department of Computer Science at University of Manchester gave a cogent and remarkably understandable presentation on "Semantic Webs and the Semantic Web: Services, Resources and Technologies for Clinical Care and Biomedical Research". He described problems with workflows and ontologies and the "Combinatorial Explosion". Further information o some of his work is available at the CLEF web site.

The next presentation was by Professor Michael Rigby, and a colleague from the Centre for Heath Planning and Management at Keele University who addressed the expansion to unsubstainability and the proof of concept work to produce an information broker handling multiple data sources. Further information is available from the project web site: IBHIS: Integration Broker for Heterogeneous Information Sources.

Dr Mike Bainbridge clinical architect for the NHS Connecting for Health programme then gave an overview of the need for integration of information and systems in healthcare, and some of the vision for the NHS in 2015 (rather than 2010) as set out in previous Connecting for Health documents.

The lunch break gave an opportunity to visit the stands of some of the exhibitors, and chat with delegates from around the world.

During the afternoon the health theme continued in the large Pentland Auditorium although the audience was sparse - some people suggesting that this may have been because it was the last opportunity for delegates to go site seeing and that it coincided with the final parade of the Scots Regiment.

The first presentation was by Frances Mair, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Glasgow, who examined the current role and future challenges for Telehealthcare. She provided a variety of examples of pilot projects and current services in the area and discussed what might be achievable in the next few years. Her presentation includes examples of wearable and home monitoring devices and systems.

Ray Jones, Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Health and Social Work, and Professor of Health Informatics, at the University of Plymouth, then examined Watching and tailoring: exploring new ways of using the web for combined e-health e-learning, using both student and patient examples to illustrate potential uses of the web.

Frank Sullivan, NHS Tayside Professor of Research and development in General practice and Primary Care in the University of Dundee, describing a range of projects undertaken by the Clinical Technology Centre at the University of Dundee , including the advantages brought by the longstanding Community Health Number which has been used for patient records in Scotland for many years.

Celia Boyer, executive director of the Health On the Net Foundation, a non-governmental organisation offering to Internet users reliable and trustworthy information through more than 5,000 accredited medical and health web sites according to the HON Code of Conduct (HONcode). She described the work of the foundation and code and the new WRAPIN facility which enables the comparison of health/medical documents in any format (HTML, PDF, etc.) or length with this interconnected knowledge base, to discover if the information exists in the published literature and provide a summary conclusion of the ideas contained. It will help to determine the reliability of documents by checking the ideas contained against established benchmarks, and enable users to determine the relevance of a given document from a page of search results. This exciting new tool is an important step toward the certification of quality online information.

Dr Simon de Lusignan,a practising GP and course director of Biomedical Informatics at St George's Hospital (with whom I later shared a beer, bus ride and flight delays), then described the Opportunities and Challenges in Using routinely collected general practice data for quality improvement.

I gave the last presentation of the day examining Human Quality Assurance for Web Resource Catalogues.

The flight delays made it a long, but worthwhile day. It was disappointing that the audiences were so small for most of the health presentations.

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