Health 2.0

How Do We Build Health 2.0 Into the Delivery System?

The Health 2.0 Meets Ix conference, will take place April 22 and 23 in Boston, Massachusetts. As part of the lead-up to the conference, which will focus on the interplay between the Health 2.0 and Information Therapy (Ix) movements, the THCB, the Health Affairs Blog and other participating blogs will feature a series of posts discussing ideas that will be featured at the conference.

The post below by John Halamka is the second in this series. The first post in the series described the background and main themes of the Health 2.0 and Ix movements. In his post, Halamka offers a vision on how best to build Health 2.0 into the health care delivery system; he will participate in a debate on this topic in Boston. Halamka also recently contributed to a Health Affairs online package on implementing the health information technology provisions of the recently passed economic stimulus legislation. The package was published in conjunction with the Health Affairs March-April issue on health IT.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen a convergence of emerging ideas that suggest a new path forward for decision support and information therapy. I believe we need Decision Support Service Providers (DSSP), offering remotely hosted, low cost knowledge services to support the increasing need for evidence-based clinical decision making.

Beth Israel Deaconess has traditionally bought and built its applications. Our decision support strategy will also be a combination of building and buying. However, it’s important to note that creating and maintaining your own decision support rules requires significant staff resources, governance, accountability, and consistency. Our Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee recently examined all the issues involved in maintaining our own decision support rules and it’s an extensive amount of work. We use First Data Bank as a foundation for medication safety rules. We use Anvita Health to provide radiology ordering guidelines based on American College of Radiology rules. Our internal committees and pharmacy create and maintain guidelines, protocols, dosing limits, and various alerts/reminders. We have 2 full time RNs just to maintain our chemotherapy protocols.

Many hospitals and academic institutions do not have the resources to create and maintain their own best practice protocols, guidelines, and order sets. The amount of new evidence produced every year exceeds the capacity of any single committee or physician to review it. The only way to keep knowledge up to date is to divide the maintenance cost and effort among many institutions.

A number of firms have assembled teams of clinicians and informatics experts to offer these kinds of knowledge resources. UptoDate maintains world class clinical information with thousands of authors reviewing literature and providing quarterly revisions.  Anvita Health has a large team of experts codifying decision support rules and building the vocabulary tools needed to make them work with real world clinical data. Medventive provides the business intelligence tools needed to create physician report cards and achieve pay for performance incentives.

However, none of these firms can plug directly into an electronic health record in a way that offers clinicians just in time decision support.

Here’s a strawman for the way a Decision Support Service Provider should work:a. A hospital or clinic selects one or many Decision Support Service Providers based on clinician workflow needs, compliance requirements and quality goalsb. Electronic health record software connects to Decision Support Service Providers via a web services architecture, including appropriate security to protect any patient specific information transfered to remote decision support engines. For example, an EHR might transfer a clinical summary such as the Continuity of Care Document to a Decision Support Service Provider along with a clinical question to be answered.c. A clinician begins to order a therapy or diagnostic test. The patient’s insurance eligibility and formulary are checked via a web service. The patient’s latest problem list, labs, and genetic markers are compared to best practices in the literature for treating their specific condition. A web service returns a rank ordered list of desirable therapies or diagnostics, based on evidence, and provides alerts, reminders, or monographs personalized for the patient.d. Clinicians complete their orders, complying with clinical guidelines, pay for performance incentives and best practices.e. The decision support feedback is realtime and prospective, not retrospective. Physicians get CME credit from learning new approaches to diagnosis and treatment.

In order to do this, EHR vendors must work with Decision Support Service Providers to implement the uniform architecture and interoperability standards needed to integrate decision support into EHR workflow. I would be happy to host a Harvard sponsored conference with all the stakeholder companies to kick off this work.

Of course, some may worry about the liability issues involved in using a Decision Support Service Provider. What if clinicians comply with flawed guidelines or fail to comply with suggested therapies and bad outcomes occur?

Based on my review of the literature, I believe decision support liability is a new area without significant case law. The good news is that there are no substantive judgments against clinicians for failing to adhere to a clinical decision support alert. As a licensed professional, the treating clinician is ultimately responsible for the final decision, regardless of the recommendations of a textbook, journal, or Decision Support Service Provider. However, as Clinical Decision Support matures and becomes more powerful and relevant, I believe that there could be greater liability for not using such tools to prevent harm.

This blog entry is a call to action for EHR vendors and emerging Decision Support Service Provider firms. It’s time to align our efforts and integrate decision support into electronic health records. Working together is the only affordable way for the country to rapidly implement and maintain high quality decision support and information therapy.

John Halamka is the CIO at Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center and the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog, where he writes about technology, the business of healthcare and the issues he faces as the leader of the IT department of a major hospital system. He is a frequent contributor to THCB.

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ranjanHenry MassingaleCurtisBAsh DamleDr.Rick Lippin Recent comment authors
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Henry Massingale

So this is Health Care Reform at its best, please allow me to share a concept that will open your mind in a way never thought of for a United Forum Concept. At first I stood alone and I wrote my first blog and little did I know that thouands of people and companies stood by it, I have waited to see the issues of tax increase and health care, something that may be wrote by President Obama, You see a lot of what I write, is in fact that, I do not seek Political support because I do not… Read more »


Why do We need 2100 pages of BS to reform Health Care, Probably could be done easily with something simple. Remember there are only 10 COMMANDMENTS. We have progressed to a point that the only way to solve a problem is to create 1,000 more problems. Thomas Jefferson said “When the people fear their government there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” A suggested Amendment 28 Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no… Read more »

Ash Damle

Hello. Very interesting article. Just finally getting around to reading it. Wanted to let you know about MEDgle ( ). Though we have not phrased it as a Decision Support Service Provider, that is a very succinct way of saying what we do. We have cross connected 10,000+ symptoms, 2100+ diagnoses, 6000+ procedures, 5,000+ medications, and age,gender and lifestyle with associated probabilities and algorithms to provide the basis for decision support service for consumers, health care providers, and 3rd party applications. We have recently beta tested our API with the folks at MycaHealth/HelloHealth where they have used our decision support… Read more »

Dr.Rick Lippin

With due respect to Dr.Joshua Seidman I challenge the very premise that information is therapy.
So Ix (Information Therapy) is an inherent oxymoron.
Quality Information is obviously extrememely important for medical providers and consumers. But it is not therapy.
It is well known for example that information alone does not change behavior (see smoking issue. Read stages of behavioral change research
Certainly information does not give 21st century US medicine what it needs most which is FAIRNESS
Dr. Rick Lippin
PS -Ironically I have written on the power of words to heal


Instead of step a. hospital or clinic selecting a DSSP vendor, why doesn’t a large self-insured employer group (a leader like a GE or Wal-Mart) select a vendor and make a “health information therapy” option available to all of its employees? The purchasers have the most to gain from this concept, and they have the population health data to know which DSSP providers would best be able to reduce their costs. Its understood that the physician workflow is a key component to this, but why not start with the data feeds to build the health records for all employees with… Read more »

Claudio Luís Vera

This is definitely a big step in the right direction… the only way out of the current EHR mess is through interoperability and portability that come from common standards. Decision support is just one of many applications that could be built once standards are in place. As an outsider to e-Health, it seems that there are standards about standards, but no standards: there’s a lot of talk (and agreement) about what a nationally-accepted standards should do, but no publicly available spec that I can find in weeks of research. For eHealth to be practicable, we need to *demand* that all… Read more »


Excellent post. Couldn’t agree more.
Although you’ve probably mentioned this in previous posts and others in the community may be well aware, I think it’s important to note potential conflicts of interest. In this case, for example, that you serve on Antiva’s Board of Directors.

Michael Segal MD PhD

Perfect timing. This is the one point that Ken Mandl and Zac Kohane should have added to their recent New England Journal article on Open Platform electronic health records (
This is the type of environment for which we’ve targeted our SimulConsult diagnostic decision support software. Top level diagnostic decision support is something that naturally has a global scale, not institutional scale.
This is a good time to get people focused around such open standards.


It’s not affordable if you cut physician and nursing productivity in half like my hospital’s latest rollout loser EHR.

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