Medinfo 2013 – reflections

I want to summarize my experiences of Medinfo2013 – and what’s a better way than doing it in a blog post to share with everyone interested? Naturally the post will reflect on the issues I was most interested in. Since the impressive program had 8 (sometimes even 10!) parallel sessions it was difficult to choose, and impossible to attend to everything interesting. But social media nerds as yours truly could always multitask and get some insight in what was going on in parallel sessions as well (as long as someone was tweeting from them!). I hope that even more tweeps will attend Medinfo2015 in Brazil (considering that they aim to enable more people to follow the conference from a distance by streaming sessions, I have high hopes they will have a good plan for more interactive tools as well)!

For me, the conference had 3 main themes (I’m sure for someone else it had many different, this is what I focused on and took with me).

What is the Patient’s role in e-health/medical informatics?

A major part of Medinfo2013 for me was about patients (and/or citizens? persons? individuals?) and how we study/involve/view/consider them when designing e-health.  This was not only because of my part in a workshop called “Experiences of Novel e-Health Services for Patients – Pros, Cons and Future Challenges” which I live-tweeted and had great fun during – but also because there were vivid discussions ongoing in different fora through out the conference. My stand point on this is fairly clear – I believe that we NEED to actively involve the end-users of any tool/service that we design throughout the development process (not just during testing). This is regardless of whether they are healthcare professionals, patients, or family carers. There is however a tendency to speak for others in this field – we are all patients in some respect, and knowing what the care process looks like from one perspective (that of the healthcare provider) gives us all the information we need. I completely disagree with this – using healthcare professionals as proxy for patients can get you in real trouble!

I attended a thought provoking workshop where the topic was “Moving beyond eHealth Systems for ‘People like us'” where the authors (Paul Turner, Andre Kushniruk, Pernille Bertelsen, Luis Falcon and Chris Showell) questioned whether we are designing services/e-health for PLUs (people like us) or DDDs (Disempowered, Disengaged and Disconnected). They certainly caught my attention – is it ok to talk about people as DDDs (was my first reaction)? I thought about the elderly and stroke survivors I have worked with – a group of people who are often seen as not very interested or able to use e-health and I felt almost offended on their behalf. But of course this is what the authors wanted – and we got a good discussion out of it. Who will be able to use the services we develop? Are we excluding those who need the most support? For me, yet another proof that we need to engage and involve the real end-users throughout the development process. But also that we need to consider those who will NEVER be users of e-health but very important users of health services…

Elderly – Seniors – Ageing

One group of patients/people remains very important to me, ever since I wrote my PhD thesis in the field, and that is our elderly, seniors, older persons – whatever you want to call them. I was happy to see a few presentations on the topic (did not attend all of them at the conference) and even more happy to talk to many fellow researchers in Australia working with elderly care, e.g. Andrew Georgiou and Elin Lehnbom from UNSW . It was a real inspiration – hope to work more in this field in the future!

Social media – danger or opportunity?

Since I have become quite the twitter-addict lately and have seen many examples of how social media can be used in a positive way (both for research, information sharing and support) I attended a few sessions on the topic. To my surprise, many had a very warning touch to them… for example, a panel entitled “Social Media for More Patient-Centered, Cost-Effective Healthcare Delivery” almost exclusively discussed legal issues and what you can and cannot say and do on social media as a healthcare provider or professional. Interesting, but not really what I was looking for… I realize that these issues are important – but I would have liked to hear more about opportunities – especially from a health informatics point of view! There were however many other sessions on social media that I missed out on, so I will go through the proceedings and see if I can get a more diverse perspective.

For me personally, I had great fun tweeting throughout the conference, and I think that this is a great way to create a discussion with the “world outside research”. Health (or medical) informatics is a field that interest so many diverse stakeholders and only a very limited number attend these types of conferences. So it’s been great sharing some of my reflections and thoughts with a greater audience!

Education – a changing field for health informatics?

Finally, I attended a few sessions on education. Since I spend a lot of my time teaching at the international Master program in Health Informatics here at KI, I really looked forward to being inspired on how to improve. There were a lot more sessions on eduction than I have seen before at Medinfo, and I only attended a few – so again, a browse through the proceedings will be great. I was however inspired both by talks on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and I will definitely take a look at the materials on Health Informatics out there (e.g. at the Health Informatis Forum). I was also inspired by how others have used blogs for students to reflect on their learning throughout practical work, and the idea of the “flipped classroom” – something I have been considering for one of my courses… we’ll see.

That will have to be all for now – back to writing papers, grading exams, and involving end-users!

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