LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One early milestone in a child’s development is knowing his or her colors. A new health management program designed by the University of Louisville increases the importance of Knowing Your Colors. And Oracle on Tuesday, Oct. 2, named the project one of the six most innovative ideas of the year at its annual showcase.
A collaborative effort between UofL’s information technology office and the health informatics group, the new system utilizes an individual’s routine blood test results to identify risk factors associated with various diseases and conditions. The color portion comes into play by showing the person’s test results in stages of red, yellow or green with red being problematic and green being healthy. In this manner test results are simplified and easier to remember.
“Our goal is to provide individuals and their health care providers with an easy to use and interpret system to help them manage their risk factors for various diseases and conditions,” said Dr. Russ Bessette, associate vice president for bioinformatics at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center. “At the same time, through the management of risk factors, we estimate a minimal annual savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars by helping people stay out of the hospital, earlier intervention when conditions begin to worsen and better patient compliance by the ability to see changes in their health status.”
The system works via the analysis of patients’ blood samples to determine levels of certain markers for illnesses and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic lung diseases and more. Patients and health care providers can track progress via a color-coded chart that illustrates whether a patient is in good health, approaching a problem or in need of immediate attention.
“Our goal is to make health care information accessible to more people,” Bessette said. “We hope to deploy secure information kiosks in underserved communities so that people are able to get information within their neighborhoods, increasing the convenience of understanding their health status.
“Additionally, we will have certified nurses in the communities to train ‘health coaches’ in the neighborhoods. These coaches will help patients understand their personal health information and assist in learning ways to improve their health.”
One of the elegant features of the system, and the piece that proved to be the most challenging to resolve, was the creation of the graphics and ensuring the thousands of anticipated users would have access to the graphics in a timely fashion – instantaneously.
“We had the responsibility of making the graphics come alive,” said Priscilla Hancock, vice president for information technology at UofL. “We had to determine how best to provide patients with something that was easy and quick for them to be able to read and understand, while at the same time, provide health care providers with a tool that allows for legitimate disease management based on real data.
“I know that for all of us in the informational technology office, this has been a tremendous project to work on. This is an example of how information technology can collaborate with another area on campus and really make a difference in peoples’ lives.”