Grant will lead to an open, standards-based, distributed computer system for all clinical specialties

Portland, Oregon, March 03, 2005   Medicine is changing at an extraordinary pace, and to stay current, physicians must continuously update their skills and knowledge. However, staying on top of the day-to-day scientific developments in medicine can be tough for physicians, many of whom see more patients than ever and must do so within the realities of complex reimbursement rules from insurance companies and other payers.

A grant recently awarded to researchers from Oregon Health & Science University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine aims to make it easier for physicians to discover and access top-quality continuing medical education. William Hersh, M.D., chairman of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine, is the principal investigator of the three-year, $450,000 grant. Peter Greene, M.D., associate dean for Emerging Technologies at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and executive director of the MedBiquitous Consortium, is co-principal investigator.

Under the grant, Hersh, Greene and their co-workers from OHSU and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s MedBiquitous Laboratory will design, implement and test an information technology system that allows physicians to discover online continuing medical education that fills identified gaps in their knowledge.

Common concerns about current approaches to physicians’ continuing medical education are that they are passive, don’t target an individual’s specific deficiencies in knowledge and have content that is hard to locate. Also, despite many efforts by educators and specialty groups to define medical curricula, educational content is not necessarily directly linked to the learning objectives and competencies within these curricula.

Technology standards developed by the MedBiquitous Consortium provide the opportunity to link educational content to the learning objectives and competencies within medical curricula. Founded by Johns Hopkins Medicine and leading professional medical societies, the MedBiquitous Consortium is the American National Standards Institute-accredited developer of information technology standards for health care education and competence assessment. MedBiquitous standards serve as the common language linking disparate information silos to facilitate discovery of relevant educational resources.

“We are planning to build an open and extensible system that addresses the shortcomings in current continuing medical education offerings,” said Hersh. The information technology system built by Hersh and colleagues will include a gateway through which learners will be able to discover courses on multiple distributed systems, a metadata repository that harvests information about educational resources on multiple systems, a curriculum repository that stores searchable medical curricula, and a Web Services registry that enables the gateway to interoperate with multiple repositories within the system.

“The long-term goal of our collaborative effort is to create an open, standards-based distributed system that all clinical specialties can adopt so that providers can focus more effort on the development of top-quality content rather than the infrastructure needed to make the content accessible,” said Hersh. “We hope down the road practicing clinicians will be able to identify their own personal knowledge deficiencies, easily discover continuing medical education content to address those deficiencies, and complete continuing medical education instruction online to obtain credit.”

Initially, the information technology system being developed will provide access to continuing medical education content in endocrinology and medical informatics. Initial users of the system will be OHSU internal medicine faculty. Testing and evaluation of the initial system will be provided by general practitioners who attend OHSU continuing medical education courses. Once the initial system has been tested, a second version of the system will be developed, with content added for cardiology and evidence-based medicine.

 OHSU’s Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology (www.OHSU.edu/dmice/) has a long history of accomplishment in medical informatics, both in operational and research applications. The department also has one of the largest graduate education programs in biomedical informatics worldwide.

The MedBiquitous Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (www.medbiq.org) develops collaborative technologies that enable the entities that serve professional medicine — medical societies, academies, universities and corporations — to better educate medical professionals. The laboratory is the research and development arm of the MedBiquitous Consortium, which represents more than 400,000 physicians worldwide and its government and industry leaders in health care.



Rachel MacKnight,
503 494-4156; macknigh@ohsu.edu

  Valerie Smothers,
410-735-6142, Ext.131; vsmothers@jhmi.edu