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Leading Academic Institutions Leveraging Resources for Progress

August 13, 2012
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Top academic communities starting up centers for greater good
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

In a recent conversation I had with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland, we discussed some of the exciting, groundbreaking initiatives being executed by the leading institutions in healthcare. Specifically, Mark was talking about an initiative from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) that he is writing about for an upcoming issue of HCI. It got me thinking about some of the initiatives I’ve seen popping up recently, just in the last week alone, that are in the same vein.

For instance, check out the recent launch by Johns Hopkins Medicine of a population health center at their Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Johns Hopkins Center for Population Health IT (CPHIT) will use Johns Hopkins’ numerous resources, to try to take healthcare and clinical data and use it for a broader, societal, organizational purpose.

Jonathan Weiner, Ph.D, professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of CPHIT, recently spoke with me about the center in a Q&A, which you can read here. He talked about bringing those resources together, whether it’s informatics specialists, IT specialists, policy specialists, an applied physics laboratory,  or the data from Johns Hopkins Healthcare— its medical care plan with three hundred thousand members, and focusing on a broader population.

Weiner opined about the difficulties of a fragmented healthcare community, and how health IT can be the “virtual glue that holds these systems together.” My interview with him gave me some great insights into how forward-thinking institutions are attempting to tackle wide-ranging issues with human capital and technology.

A few hundred miles up the road, it appears the people at New York University (NYU) are thinking similarly. The university just launched NYU Wireless, an “academic research center combining the exploration of advanced wireless technologies, computing and medical applications,” according to the school’s announcement. Like Johns Hopkins, NYU is leveraging its talent across the entire institution, using faculty from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly), and the NYU Langone Medical Center. Already, the school has brought on board 25 engineering, computer science, and medical professors, as well as more than 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

 “No other wireless research center in the country can claim this level of interdisciplinary cooperation, with the ability to validate research on actual patients,” professor Daniel K. Sodickson, M.D., Ph.D., vice-chair for research, Department of Radiology and director of the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Center for Biomedical Imaging at NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a statement. The center’s research space will open up in the downtown Brooklyn campus of NYU-Poly this winter, with a total of 23,000 square feet.

The NYU center is looking at measuring the reaction of millimeter-length radio waves in buildings throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. The growing use and dependence of wireless signals in hospitals, which pose construction problems, has long come with reliability questions. 

It’s worth mentioning that both NYU and Johns Hopkins are using vendors to source the development of their centers. The CPHIT will be launched simultaneously with the Johns Hopkins CPHIT Industry Partners Program, which aims to align with private companies interested in using information technology to support population health. Dr. Weiner told me they feel very much feel industry partnerships is what will get it off the ground. DST Health Solutions is the first vendor to join. Meanwhile, NYU’s partnership is using National Instruments as its initial sponsor.

Personally, as long as there is no vendor bias, I’m fine with these kinds of deals— something has to sponsor this from the get-go if it’s going to develop pertinent research. As Weiner told me, there is no government funding coming in initially.

From what I know, these are just two examples – I’m sure other institutions are using multiple resources for the betterment of healthcare on a larger-scale. And if not, they should be taking cues from the folks at Johns Hopkins and NYU, and doing so. Readers, please feel free to chime in under our comments section and let HCI know what you think!