Friday, June 01, 2012

Upcoming Keynote Presentation to Health Informatics Society of Australia: Health IT Must First Do No Harm

Pulse+IT Magazine ( is Australasia's first, and they claim only, eHealth and Health IT periodical.

In a May 30, 2012 article entitled "Patient and safety advocates a highlight at HIC2012" at this link, writer Kate McDonald describes my upcoming panel participation and Keynote Presentation at the annual Health Informatics Conference (HIC) of the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) in Sydney.

The focus of the HIC2012 meeting is "Building a Healthcare Future through Trusted Information."

Ms. McDonald had called me from Down Under to discuss my upcoming talk.  She writes:

 ... Also on the panel [one of the conference's annual Q&A panels - ed.] will be NEHTA CEO Peter Fleming, HISA board director and well-known consultant David Rowlands, and Scot Silverstein, an adjunct professor of health informatics at Drexel University in the US.

Dr Silverstein also has a personal story to tell that brings home the importance of what exactly is 'trusted' information. A qualified medical doctor and medical informatics researcher, Dr Silverstein is a strong advocate for safety in health IT systems, having been personally involved in what he believes was a case of medical misadventure caused by an electronic health record that resulted in harm to a close relative.

He will also deliver a keynote speech on the topic of improving health IT systems as a first step towards evidence-based medicine and better clinical outcomes.

Dr Silverstein told Pulse+IT that there is a “syndrome of over-confidence” in computer output that he finds puzzling.

“In other fields people, when they start getting incorrect bills or they keep coming and they can't stop them, it is always blamed on a computer system,” he said. “And yet in medicine, it seems to have evolved a culture around computing that machines in healthcare must deterministically create improvement and are purely beneficent and can't be capable of creating harm.

“It is a strange philosophy because in the same breath, people say healthcare information technology is capable of great benefit, that is a very powerful technology and when it is done well, it is. [As I've written before, "doing HIT well" is a challenge of 'wicked' complexity - ed.]  But anything that is a potential source for great good can also have a downside. There seems to be a cognitive gap in connecting computing in healthcare to its possible risk.”

She summarizes the views expressed in our phone conversation well.  My theme will be that health IT and the information it generates cannot be trusted until the technology itself is trustworthy, and earns our trust, through better engineering and implementation practices.

Ironically, I was invited to 2011's meeting.  I would have attended, but was tending to the injuries of my relative caused by the aforementioned medical misadventure. That relative is no longer with us and is hopefully resting in peace.

HISA was kind enough to re-invite me for 2012, for which I am grateful.

I will also be spending some time with several Medical Informatics professors in Australian universities, which should provide an excellent opportunity for sharing of views.

Sydney, Australia

I look forward to being in Sydney, never having been physically present in Australia, although being a ham radio operator, my single sideband (voice) and Morse code shortwave signals have been there on many occasions over the years.  This is a mere ~ 10,000-mile path.  No Internet or phone lines needed!  (I hope I get the opportunity to operate an Amateur radio station from "Down Under.")

More here after my presentation.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

Good on ya!

Steve Lucas

Anonymous said...

HIT devices will never be done well enough to assure safety, efficacy, and usability unless the vendors and their devices are held accountable and vetted, respectively, by the FDA.

Live IT or live with IT said...