Collaboration Technology for Safety Device Certification

CERC applied concurrent engineering techniques and technology to existing certification procedures at the Division of Safety Research at the Centers for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This project revolutionized the national certification process for industrial respirators -- devices worn over the nose and mouth to protect the respiratory tract in hazardous environments.

CERC and NIOSH streamlined and digitized the entire certification process, from the receipt of applications for new respirators, through the automated, on-line testing of respirators, to notifying applicants if the respirator has or has not been certified.

The improved procedures not only speed up the certification process, enabling respirator manufacturers to reduce their time to market, but they will also ensure better quality respirators, improving job safety for an estimated seven million workers.

CERC was instrumental in helping NIOSH win Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Award for improving government efficiency. The Respirator Certification Program Team was honored for improving procedures and regulations to increase worker protection without increased government spending.


Collaboration Technology for Software IV&V

CERC has developed a computer-supported collaboration environment to support the independent verification and validation (IV&V) of complex software systems. It aims to improve the quality assurance procedures for the software deployed in NASA's space-based and ground support systems. This endeavor is funded by NASA Earth Observing Systems, Goddard Space Flight Center, and NASA Headquarters' Office of Safety and Mission Assurance.

Working in close cooperation with NASA's IV&V contractors, CERC has also designed new IV&V software and methods based on concurrent engineering techniques. One of them, the Web Integrated Software Environment (WISE), is the first WWW-based software management system. WISE enables software developers, software inspectors, systems analysts, and quality assurance managers to log reports, track their status, and view project metrics and other critical information using a WWW browser.

Collaboration Technology for the Real-time Treatment of Patients (ARTEMIS)

Healthcare delivery is a team operation involving a number of highly skilled individuals collaborating to treat each patient. Our healthcare application, ARTEMIS, gives authorized healthcare providers timely access to distributed multimedia patient care information and enables them to confer with other health care providers from their desktops.

Authorized healthcare personnel can employ CERC's customized WWW application or a standard WWW browser to access up-to-date patient information from ARTEMIS patient record servers. The extensive patient records include medical history, encounter notes, laboratory reports, and diagnostic images. Referrals to specialists are conveyed via multi-media mail, while consultations among healthcare providers are conducted through desktop video conferences that allow shared viewing of relevant multimedia medical records.

The ARTEMIS project was sponsored, in part, by the National Library of Medicine from 1993-97. CERC developed this system in collaboration with Valley Health Systems, Inc., Cabell Huntington Hospital, and St. Mary's Hospital -- all in Huntington, West Virginia -- as well as with physicians from West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center in Morgantown.

Currently, the ARTEMIS technology is being commercialized by CareFlow|Net, Inc. through a cooperative agreement with West Virginia University. As part of this agreement, CERC is subcontracted to CareFlow|Net to customize the modules.


Project Summary

The basic premise of this proposal is that more affordable and effective health care can be achieved by applying modern computer technology to improve the collaboration among the diverse and distributed providers in the health care arena.

This premise is based on the belief that information sharing, communication, and coordination are basic elements of any collaborative endeavour. In the health care domain, collaboration is the cooperative activities of health care providers aiming to deliver total and real-time care for their patients. Communication between providers and managed access to distributed patient records should enable health care providers to make informed decisions about their patients in a timely manner. Patients should have universal access to the services of any convenient provider, and providers should be able to use relevant information from even the last episode of care in the patient record. Such a patient-centered perspective is in keeping with the real mission of health care providers.

However, this scenario does not reflect current practice despite the fact that today's technology makes several of these operations possible right now. For example, elements of patient records (including information such as X-ray images) can be shared interactively among physicians; physicians can access some remote databases containing pertinent diagnostic information; and high speed, robust communication links can be established between patient care centers.

Why aren't these capabilities being utilized to improve the effectiveness of health care delivery?

We believe the answer lies in the fact that an easy-to-use (from the provider perspective) integrated implementation of these capabilities has not occurred to date in any community. Large health care systems have deployed partial and disparate systems that address different elements of the problem. But these islands of automation have not been integrated to facilitate cooperation among health care providers in large communities or nationally.

We have formed a balanced consortium of computer system developers, practicing rural physicians, community care groups, health care researchers, and tertiary care facilities that is committed to provide a solution.

Our team is prepared to provide a collaborative health care venture by deploying a set of software systems, in a growing number of health care facilities, in a phased manner, and to demonstrate:

  • physicians treating patients using patient records and knowledge (such as cost information and research findings) from distributed sources;
  • primary care physicians consulting with remote specialists in the areas of perinatology and radiology, facilitated with computer support for X-rays, Ultrasound, voice-annotations and other multimedia information; and
  • community care networks consisting of a collection of primary care and specialized care providers collaborating to meet a community's health care needs.

Collaboration among health care providers can be leveraged via health care networks, which consist of a group of providers working together with a common vision and goal. Implementing such networks will require active collaboration between innovators, systems developers and integrators who will forge a path that allows a phased migration of technologies and practices.

The Concurrent Engineering Research Center (CERC) and its team members at Valley Health Systems, Inc., Cabell Huntington Hospital, and St. Mary's Hospital propose to exploit the available technologies (both research and commercial off-the-shelf systems) into a field-validated, open collaboration environment for the health care domain and to demonstrate its effectiveness in reducing the cost of health care.


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