Submitted by Amy Buehrle Light, RD, LDN
Our final project for the Informatics 10x10 class (Academy/AMIA 10x10 Informatics course) took the form of a challenge: Identify an informatics-related problem in health care and find a solution.
My project dealt with a gap of available data needed to identify the state of health for children in Wake County, NC. Specific health metrics included the percentage of overweight and obese children by age group, gender, and race/ethnicity. More data actually existed in the form of electronic medical records at the county’s largest hospitals, but this information is currently inaccessible. Some call this the “silo effect,” health care information that now exists electronically, but is not usable outside of the organization’s walls, so to speak. So, the challenge is: How can we leverage this data for secondary use?
Through my work on the Academy’s Informatics Committee, I had learned a bit about Query Health and explored this as a possible solution. Query Health is an open government initiative sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Office of Standards and Interoperability. This project aims to develop standards and specifications for distributed population queries, or simply put, “send questions to the data.”1
In its pilot phase right now, Query Health is not yet ready for general use, but you can imagine the power of such a tool. You can send a query, or question, in an electronic health record (EHR) system-agnostic format to all organizations opting to participate. The answers are sent back to the requestor in a standardized way, so all results are quickly summarized, while keeping the protected health information (PHI) about patients behind the firewalls of each organization.
Answers to questions about disease outbreaks, prevention activities, health research, and quality measures2 could come from a larger number of data sources than is now possible.
In our case, participating hospitals and pediatrician practices could receive the question about the body mass index (BMI) of children living in our county, which would give us a much better picture of the true state of pediatric obesity in our community.
With more complete, measurable data, it also is possible to measure initiatives that address identified health issues for quality. This, in turn, gives us the feedback that is needed to refine outreach efforts to more positively impact the health of our community’s children. Healthy kids=health information technology’s (IT’s) mission accomplished!
You can learn more about Query Health and follow its progress athttp://wiki.siframework.org/Query+Health.
1. S&I Framework. Query Health. Available at:http://wiki.siframework.org/Query+Health. Accessed November 6, 2012.
2. Mostashari F, Park T, Fridsma D, Elmore R. Query Health: Distributed Population Queries. Available at:http://wiki.siframework.org/file/view/Distributed+Population+Queries+-+Query+Health+Launch.pdf/252062404/Distributed%20Population%20Queries%20-%20Query%20Health%20Launch.pdf. Accessed November 6, 2012.