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Cloud-Based Collaboration Brings Medical Expertise To Haiti

Collaboration between IBM and the Colleagues in Care Global Health Network gives doctors in remote parts of the world access to evidence-based medicine.

Healthcare's Bumpy Road To ICD-10
Healthcare's Bumpy Road To ICD-10
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IBM and Colleagues in Care (CIC) Global Health Network have joined forces in an effort to improve medical care in impoverished nations that don't have all the resources they need. To accomplish that goal, the CIC network, which is comprised of almost 200 doctors, nurses, and business professionals from around the world, is linked together in a virtual meeting room to share their medical expertise with local clinicians via IBM's SmartCloud technology.

The technology allows specialists and clinicians with diverse skills to "volunteer in any way that fits with their particular needs and wants," Marie Kenerson, Global Chief Learning and Collaboration Officer at Colleagues in Care, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Healthcare professionals can upload medical protocols from various sites in the developed world, including hospital systems and corporations that allow access to all their protocols.

[Is it time to re-engineer your Clinical Decision Support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs.]

The assortment of documents often includes standard order sets and clinical pathways, which the volunteers then bring into Smart-Cloud. "... [T]hen doctors can come in from all over the world and they can collaborate, edit documents, and customize medical protocols that we call best possible practices," Kenerson said.

In addition to the medical component, the technology lets other volunteers take on virtual mentor and consultant relationships.

Right now, CIC is using the IBM system to help clinicians in Haiti improve care. A Haitian doctor can log onto the Smart Cloud community and upload a protocol he has been using for eclampsia, a hypertensive condition in pregnancy. If the protocol is in a foreign language, it can be translated via Google Translate into English. The doctors providing expert advice, in conjunction with the Haitian physician, can come together and review these documents in a web meeting, collaborate, and produce a new document that becomes the best practice protocol in that location.

This collaboration model also includes a training component, which allows medical workers to be taught the protocol that's been decided upon. Kenerson explained that the benefit of this approach is it assures that the training is evidence-based and that it provides local practitioners with standard of care guidelines. She added that the protocols are accessible to anyone. They're also customizable to other resource-challenged areas around the world.

A third part of the model is educational, which includes on-site and mobile (smartphone-based) instruction, plus other forms of e-learning. "We have a partner that provides the actual physical buildings made from containers, that will become medical knowledge centers focused on the future of mobile technology," Kenerson said.

Having access to protocols is particularly helpful in Haiti; according to the World Health Organization, the country has only one nurse and three doctors for every 10,000 people.

Kenerson said that down the road she would like to see wider bandwidths to allow for virtual medical coaching and consultancy. "What's really been a big help is the integration of Skype with IBM's Smart Cloud for the simple reason that for volunteers to call us on their cell phone for a conference call would be costly. We prefer to use Skype only because it's free for them to call us."

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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