Web2.0 Clinicians – building clinical knowledge resources

After 5 collaborative review rounds by 18 clinicians and informaticians from 9 countries, today I have published the Clinical Synopsis archetype on the openEHR Clinical Knowledge Manager. The Clinical Knowledge Manager (CKM) is an online community putting the Web2.0 paradigm into practice for EHR development. From the CKM wiki...

"The openEHR Clinical Knowledge Manager is an international, online clinical knowledge resource – www.openEHR.org/knowledge. It has gathered an active Web 2.0 community of interested and motivated individuals focused on furthering an open and international approach to clinical informatics – an application- and message-independent lingua franca for sharing health information between individuals, clinicians and organisations; between applications, and across regional and national borders. All contributions to CKM is on a voluntary basis, and all CKM content is open source and freely available under a Creative Commons licence.

The core openEHR building block/knowledge artefact is known as an archetype. To a clinician an archetype is a computable definition of single, discrete clinical concept; yet to a software engineer it is a computable expression of a domain content model in the form of structured constraint statements, and based on a reference model. Both definitions are describing the same computable knowledge artefact and in practice, clinicians drive the development of the archetype and the engineers implement them in software."

CKM status

At time of writing the registered CKM community numbers 433 individuals from 53 countries, with 184 volunteering to participate in archetype reviews and 50 volunteering to translate archetypes once the content is published. (Current user stats are here). It comprises a range of clinicians, health informaticians, software engineers, terminologists, researchers, students, policy makers, and administrators – and is open to anyone to join and participate. No consumers yet, although the models are designed to be used in PHRs as well. You can self-register by clicking on the link in the top right of the CKM screen.

There are over 250 archetypes currently available - most are still draft; some that are currently within the Team Review process; and a small number that have achieved consensus during Team Review of the clinical content and have been published. Others are in development in various projects and national programs from around the world and many will gradually be submitted into the CKM for international review and publication.

The priorities and focus of the current openEHR CKM archetype reviews are on achieving agreement and consensus on the 10 key archetypes that would support healthcare provision in a typical crisis situation.  Effectively these archetypes would contain clinical content that the openEHR community regard as the most important components of any Emergency Summary – the '10 archetypes that could save a life'!

Not surprisingly progress has been steady but a little slower than anticipated. Remember, all participants volunteer, including the editors and this is a relatively new activity. As such we are continually learning and refining the CKM tool and our processes. Most importantly, we are seeking to align the identified critical archetypes with the work that is being done in isolation by many standards groups and national bodies. Under review at the moment are probably the two hardest on which to achieve consensus – Adverse Reactions and the Problem/Diagnosis family. Medication orders is about to commence the review process.

Interestingly, the Adverse Reaction review is currently paused because following it's first review round, where it became clear that Adverse Reaction needs to be considered as part of a larger picture related to the modeling of all safety-related concepts. At present I am endeavoring to tease out the differences and overlap in theory and practice related to Adverse Events; Adverse Reactions; Adverse Drug Reactions; Warnings; Alerts; and Risk plus Adverse Event reporting to statutory authorities – it's complex and I can't see where this has been done previously. In practice, most current EHRs try to mimic the way we record these concepts in paper records, but this is not easy. How we should replicate that critical 'ALLERGIC TO PENICILLIN' scrawled in red felt pen across the front of a paper record, so no-one misses it? To take our EHRs into the future we need a cohesive suite of concept definitions that will support data capture, viewing, querying and inferencing to support clinical decision support. So watch this space, and please let me know if you'd like to join in!

Modeling an entire EHR – is it achievable?

Many will consider that creating and agreeing all the clinical content for an EHR is an impossible task. However let's consider a couple of key things about openEHR:

  1. The openEHR archetype is created as 'a maximal data set for a universal use case'. So in other words, everything we can think of about a single clinical concept for use in every possible clinical scenario. In the past we have struggled and fought about the inclusions in minimum data sets, however with a maximum data set everyone's priorities can be included. The innovation of openEHR is in achieving consensus on the data specifications through use of the maximum data set but allowing for clinical diversity and relevance by constraining the maximum data set down to a useful one for each clinical scenario through use of templates. I like to think of this as a little bit of 'magic – a bit like having your cake and eating it too!
  2. While there are 350,000+ SNOMED terms, we do not anticipate 350,000 archetypes. In fact 10-20 will comprise most emergency or discharge summaries and as few as 50-100 archetypes could cover most of a typical primary care EHR. Most people are surprised that we need so few archetypes, and the key reason is that each archetype is about a concept, not an archetype per symptom or diagnosis. In fact there is a single symptom archetype and a single diagnosis archetype that will likely cover more than 90% of symptoms and diagnoses, by using a terminology such as SNOMED CT to identify the actual symptom or diagnosis itself. The power of structured content definitions (the archetypes) plus a terminology is a very powerful semantic combination.
  3. We have started with the hardest archetypes – those in which nearly every stakeholder and jurisdiction will have an opinion. Once these key 10 archetypes are published, we anticipate that the momentum will increase.

Tim O'Reilly spoke of the Web2.0 being a 'harnessing the collective intelligence' and while in it's early days still, CKM is starting to do just that – to bring together experts from many profession domains, areas of expertise and geographical regions with a common goal. Grassroots clinicians are contributing alongside the technical experts – all contributions are gratefully received and are incorporated into the final published content models.

Please regard this as an open invitation to all to become involved. Self-register, and if you want to become involved in archetype review then 'adopt' the archetype/s of your choice!