UW-Madison: New Program to Advance Personal Health Care Through Technology

MADISON – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today issued a call for
proposals for a new program to stimulate innovations in personal health information
technology.

The project is directed by Patricia Flatley Brennan, professor of nursing and
industrial engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The national initiative, called “Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and
Potential of Personal Health Records,” encourages technology pioneers to design the
next generation of personal health record (PHR) systems in ways that empower
patients to better manage their health and health care.

The $3.5 million program will support up to 10 multidisciplinary teams in a
collaborative effort to design and test innovative health record applications that
can be built upon a common technology platform. All teams will work closely with
patients and consumers throughout the process to ensure that their designs align
with end users’ needs and preferences.

Upon completing the design phase of the program, teams will test prototype
applications with patient populations.

“It’s critical that people have access to their medical information, but they also
need tools that help them manage and apply that information to improve their health
and health care,” says Stephen Downs, RWJF senior program officer and deputy
director of its Health Group.

The program is part of RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative projects
that can lead to fundamental breakthroughs in the health and health care of all
Americans.

“PHRs to date tend to help patients collaborate with physicians and hospitals, by
obtaining prescription renewals or reviewing laboratory results, for example,” says
Brennan. “Most people find PHRs to be effective and helpful. The technical challenge
is in creating a suite of PHRs that work together to help people achieve all of
their health goals in an integrated fashion.”

“Project HealthDesign will help create PHR systems that provide a range of flexible
tools that can best support individuals’ needs and preferences,” Brennan adds.
“These tools may remind a patient to take medications or schedule appointments, or
even help people with asthma incorporate weather and air quality updates into their
daily health decisions.”

Experts say the advancement of computer-based personal health records has already
empowered many people to become better health care consumers and more informed
patients, but the potential of personal health record systems to improve patient
management of specific diseases needs further exploration.

In this two-phased initiative, design teams will first participate in a six-month
structured process to create user-centered personal health applications that address
specific health challenges faced by individuals and families. In the 12-month
prototype phase, these personal health applications will then be tested in target
populations.

The Project HealthDesign call for proposals is available online at
www.rwjf.org/cfp/projecthealthdesign. Proposals are due September 19, 2006.
Potential applicants should contact the program at
[email protected] or
visit www.projecthealthdesign.org for more information.