HIMSS 4 ways to take informatics to the next level

By Charles Boicey, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS
09:28 AM

Charles Boicey

Brian Norris


MappyHealth, a social media collaboration, started with a tweet from @Geek_Nurse, aka Brian Norris, “Do I have any connections out there that are familiar with the Twitter API?” Mark Silverberg (@Skram), an information systems management student at GWU, answered the tweet. They both reached out to Charles Boicey (@N2InformaticsRN) and the MappyHealth team was complete. MappyHealth was formed to answer the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response challenge to build an application to mine the twitter feed for 25 diseases and visualize those diseases in real time. MappyHealth, one of 33 entries, went on to win the challenge.

For clinical informatics, the MappyHealth experience demonstrates four ways to take informatics to the next level:

  1. Use Social media to find and form collaborations. As Brian’s initial tweet demonstrated, social media is an ideal platform to find potential collaborators. Twitter and LinkedIn both have advanced search capabilities. LinkedIn has communities dedicated to topics such as health IT, data science and open-source tools. Twitter with the use of hashtags makes it easy to search for tweets containing topics such as #healthIT or #informatics. Blogs are another source for finding collaborators.
  2. Collaborate with disciplines outside of healthcare. We have the healthcare domain knowledge, understand the challenges clinicians face and understand the evolving needs of our patients. We have found reaching out to and forming collaborations with academic partners in domains outside of healthcare such as computer science, graphic design, human-computer interaction and information management brings new perspectives and enhances the innovation process. Graduate students make excellent collaborators. They are bright, eager to help, are down on the latest and greatest technologies and will not break the bank. Mark, our MappyHealth student co-founder, was responsible for the development and deployment of the application.
  3. Explore using emerging open-source technologies to power healthcare applications. The open-source community is rich with technologies to drive health IT innovations. The technologies that drive Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and others are all readily available. MappyHealth was built entirely on an open source platform. For clinical Informaticists to harness these technologies, collaborations with Computer Scientists, Human-Computer Interaction Specialists, Graphic Designers and students of these disciplines is essential.
  4. Participate in contests and challenges to stimulate innovation in the creation of health IT applications. The number of contests dedicated to building healthcare applications is increasing and so too is the prize money. Health 2.0 is a site dedicated to innovation in health IT, has awarded over two million in prize money and serves as a clearinghouse for healthcare application contests. The ONC has brought forth several challenges, the most recent, a call for graphic designers to rethink how a medical record is presented visually, making it more readable, downloadable, and easy for patients to use. 

If you have an interest for innovation in health IT check out Health 2.0, find a contest that fits your interests, reach out to potential collaborators via social media, form a team and have fun. Who knows, you may be the next Health 2.0 challenge winner.

Charles Boicey, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, is Informatics Solutions Architect at University of California, Irvine. Brian Norris, MBA, RN-BC, is Vice President and Chief Nursing Informatics Officer for the Kentucky Region of Catholic Health Initiatives.This article originally published on the HIMSS.org News page.