Mr. Information

Another interesting talk today, this time in my Clinical Sciences class, which is a 1 credit class giving us a melange of seemingly unrelated information. (Please excuse the hold up on any actual drawings this semester- i’ve been bogged down in pathophysiology and medical terminology text books and the UIC library! I will have to show some art to in the next couple of weeks because everything is actually DUE. eek!)

So far in the Clinical Sciences class, we’ve:

1) learned the neurology of the human brain (abridged version) from an anatomist at the university during the course of two lectures,

2) met and learned from an amazing woman pretty high up in the pharmaceutical field, who told us really crazy stuff about drug development, (maybe another blog) and

3) heard a talk from this guy who works in the department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences- right next door to us. That one sounds kinda boring, right?

It actually wasn’t boring at all.  He’s the guy who’s implementing electronic records in every hospital and doctor’s office in the country (mandated by Obama in 2008).  He’s the guy who wants to let everyone have access to their own health record, and let all doctors who treat you see your entire health history every time you enter a doctor’s office.  He’s also the guy that realizes this vision is a little unrealistic.

Why? Well, because it’s TOO MUCH INFORMATION.  Apparently, when they tried to give people access to their EHRs, electronic health records, less than 10% of them actually glanced at it.

He said, and I quote, “The data challenge in clinical care and medical research is huge.”  Meaning, there is way too much of it.  We have so much information on the genomes of thousands of species, we have the entire medical history of millions of people (not public I hope) and even more information about drugs, disease and treatment.  So what’s the use?  How can informatics be simplified to produce decision making?  For the doctor- and the patient?

One cool thing that Google has been a part of is the Google Flu Trends.

Every time anyone in the world Googles words like “flu symptoms” or anything related to that, it’s recorded.  Doctors and public health people watch the trends, and can predict a flu outbreak 24 hours before it happens.  It worked with the swine flu!  But the problem is that they never know if a “fluctuation” will become a steady rise, which, in the case of the swine flu, surprised quite a few people.

So I think the point of this guy’s talk was to inspire us to subscribe to his grand vision of: Using information to decrease complexity in health.  How do we do that?  Well, as medical artists we can use our graphic art skills to, say, simplify the Drug Facts.  Or maybe find a way to communicate to patients what is going on in their bodies in a clear and concise way, so they have the motivation to take their medicine.  To design based on purpose, ease and effectiveness.  Because humans are pretty complex, but we have limitations to what we can absorb and understand.  I totally agree, but I don’t know where to start.

Picutre of author

About Claire Shapleigh, Biomedical Visualization

Hi, my name is Claire and I'm in my second year of the Biomedical Visualization MS program at UIC. It's a combination of art and science, and it's pretty fun. So far I've dissected a human body and learned how to draw in 2D using a computer AND my hand, and I'm about to learn how to 3D model. Holler at me if you have any questions about the program!

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