Canada leads drive for solutions to
OTTAWA – A Canadian-led, international initiative to improve patient
safety, focusing on health risks from taking prescribed medications,
will be launched at an Ottawa workshop next month.
Experts from around the world will seek technical solutions to patient
safety risks, which include illness and deaths from adverse drug
reactions, at an upcoming Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers (IEEE) Workshop on Adverse Response Monitoring (WARM) to be
held on February 21 – 22, 2008.
The workshop, organized by the Ottawa Section of the IEEE, the world’s
leading professional association for the advancement of technology, will
feature representatives of the Ottawa Heart Institute, Johns Hopkins
Applied Physics Laboratories, the University of Toronto and European
Federation of Medical Informatics, among others.
Patient safety is a serious global health issue. According to World
Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 10% of patients are harmed while
receiving top hospital care. Recognizing the magnitude of the problem,
the member states of the WHO supported a 2002 World Health Assembly
resolution on patient safety.
“No healthcare knowledge is more important than how to prevent harm to
patients. However, action to reduce known risks has often been far too
slow,” said Sir Liam Donaldson, MD, Chair of the WHO World Alliance for
The workshop will for the first time bring together a multi-disciplinary
team from diverse fields including medicine, physics, engineering,
informatics, and measurement science – along with corporate leaders and
government policymakers – to grapple with this problem. The goal is to
find solutions for detecting and reporting adverse events objectively,
promptly and relevantly – case by case, regardless of location – to help
optimize the efficacy of medication.
“Engineering shares with medicine a commitment to improve quality of
life while putting safety first, and that’s why the IEEE is organizing
this workshop. On this common ground, we will seek to work out the
differences and identify the cross-cutting technologies that can bridge
the gap between physical and physiological safety systems,” said Dr.
Wahab Almuhtadi, IEEE Ottawa Section Chair.
Other high risk
industries, such as aviation, have a much better safety record than
healthcare. “Your risk of being harmed in an aircraft is 1/1,000,000
versus 1/300 in a hospital. Nobody finds this situation acceptable, so
we need to find the fastest path to making healing as safe as flying,”
said Dr. Tofy Mussivand (pictured above), Chair and Director of Cardiovascular
Devices Division, University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
Most medications today are administered by patients at home, without
supervision, and in the absence of systems to manage and track adverse
drug responses. Many patients experience complications from prescribed
drugs – often severe – adding to the challenges of managing chronic
conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
This has prompted recent legislation in the United States that requires
drug companies to monitor patient reaction to new medications for seven
years after approval. The WARM workshop responds to the need to find
objective methods of measuring patient responses to medications and to
develop standards for adverse response measurement and analysis.
“Despite the well-known risks associated with using prescription drugs,
medication errors and adverse reactions are still poorly understood and
recorded. Given these risks, we need to develop objective methods for
monitoring an individual’s response to treatment,” said George Mihalas,
President of the European Federation of Medical Informatics.
“Is this treatment working for me? That is the question in healthcare.
Without a precise answer to this question, knowing what’s going on with
a patient imposes unbearable costs of cognition, communication,
coordination, and capability. Personal health monitoring systems are
needed to help answer this question efficiently and therefore enable the
provision of safe, high-quality care for all,” said Dr. Radu Leca,
President of Biosign Technologies Inc.
Reflecting the growing recognition of this need, the workshop has
attracted sponsorships from three technology companies: IBM, a pioneer
in healthcare information technology; TELUS, a leader in health
information delivery; and Emergis, a leading developer of electronic
medical record systems.
“At Emergis we are focused on improving patient care and the safety of
our health system through the use of information technology. We are very
pleased to be participating in this important event which will focus on
patient safety risks related to medications and medication
administration – an area where information technology must play a larger
role in order to advance our healthcare system to the next level,” said
Mark Groper, Executive Vice-President, Health-Public Sector, at Emergis.
Technologies to be demonstrated at WARM include a telematic health
information system for monitoring responses to frequently prescribed
drugs. The system, developed by Biosign, leverages established
technologies to assess a patient’s response to treatment and the need to
adjust treatment accordingly.
“IBM supports and applauds this initiative, which addresses challenging
questions in the quest for high-quality healthcare. Ensuring that people
are not harmed by medication is not an option, but the first condition
of quality care. That’s why we are working closely with TELUS and
Biosign to offer a prescription for action,” said Sal Causi, IBM
Healthcare’s Business Development Executive.
“TELUS is pleased to support this IEEE workshop’s goal of improving
patient safety through the use of technology. This is an extension of
our ongoing collaboration with IBM and Biosign. The strategy to
commoditize self care and remote monitoring is critical as we move
toward next-generation healthcare,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, TELUS’ Chief
The workshop seeks presentations and demonstrations of such solutions
that balance collaborative innovation with proven global best practices
toward a new, safer standard of care.
More information is available at
About IEEE and The Ottawa Section
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is a
non-profit, technical professional association of more than 385,000
members worldwide. Through its members, the IEEE is a leading authority
in technical areas ranging from computer engineering, biomedical
technology and telecommunications, to electric power, aerospace and
consumer electronics, among others. Through its technical publishing,
conferences and consensus-based standards activities, the IEEE produces
30 percent of the world’s published literature in electrical
engineering, computers and control technology, holds annually more than
300 major conferences and has nearly 900 active standards with 700 under
development. The Ottawa Section, which has been cited four years in a
row as the worldwide leading IEEE section for the outstanding activities
organized by its volunteers, is dedicated to strengthening the role of
engineers in community development.
About Biosign Technologies
Biosign develops technologies, products and initiatives to address
critical problems in global healthcare. The company is committed to
becoming the “world’s health monitor” with a robust, integrated and
portable system that provides valuable information for all parties
concerned through a wide range of self-care and patient-centric
services. Biosign’s advanced technology and continued innovation serve
the company’s mission to make healthcare safe, simple, and sensible.
About IBM Healthcare
A pioneer in healthcare information technology, IBM remains at the
forefront of improving how healthcare organizations deliver efficient,
high quality care. IBM, in combination with its global network of
business partners and strategic alliances, delivers powerful technology
and comprehensive services that help healthcare organizations achieve
About TELUS Healthcare
TELUS addresses challenges in providing sustainable and equitable
quality care within a complex system with multiple distributed
stakeholders. TELUS solutions enable the delivery of health information
to the point of care, while paying particular attention to safeguarding
the security and privacy of personal and medical information.
Emergis is an IT leader in Canada that focuses on the health and
financial services sectors. The “Oacis” Electronic Medical Record has
the proven technology to enable delivery of first class, comprehensive
care from multiple points-of-service across an enterprise, helping
health professionals cost effectively improve patient safety. Its
flawless integration of data, from existing systems using scalable,
expandable technology, increases productivity and delivers better