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Special Issue "Public Health Informatics"

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A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2009)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Maged N. Kamel Boulos

University of the Highlands and Islands / Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean, The Alexander Graham Bell Centre for Digital Health, Elgin, Moray, IV30 1JJ, Scotland, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 01343 576830
Interests: medical and health informatics; including telehealthcare/eHealth; geographic informatics; 3D virtual worlds and virtual globes (mirror worlds); web 2.0; e-learning

Special Issue Information

Public Health Informatics (PHI) is the science of applying information-age technology to serve the specialized needs of public health. PHI is ¡°the systematic application of information and computer science and technology to public health practice, research and learning.¡± As a discipline, PHI focuses on the information science and technology applications that are relevant to public health, while always keeping in mind that:

- The primary focus of public health is to promote the health of populations and not the health of specific individuals.
- The primary strategy of public health is prevention of disease and injury by altering the conditions or the environment that put populations at risk.
- Public health professionals explore the potential for prevention at all vulnerable points in the causal chains leading to disease, injury, or disability; public health activities are not restricted to particular social, behavioural, or environmental contexts.
- Public health interventions must reflect the governmental context in which public health is practiced.

We are using the broadest definition of Public Health Informatics, which also covers applications, systems, services and solutions with noticeable impacts on communities (including patient communities, older populations, etc.) and/or on health and social care systems and services. Prospective authors are invited to submit manuscripts on related topics, including, but not limited to, Internet-based public education and outreach; telehealthcare and domotic services for populations with special needs; real-time outbreak and disease surveillance; Internet-based engagement and empowerment of citizens and communities, including Social Web applications; e-epidemiology; privacy-preserving solutions for public health studies that involve person-identifiable data (e.g., home addresses), etc.

  • Open Access - free for readers, with low publishing fees paid by authors or their institutions
  • Rapid publication: accepted papers are immediately published online (we started to publish papers quickly since September 2008). The printed edition will only be continued for the Proceedings of the yearly International Symposiums on Recent Advances in Environmental Health Research starting 2009.

Keywords

  • real-time outbreak and disease surveillance
  • disease surveillance
  • Internet-based engagement and empowerment of citizens and communities
  • Internet-based public health education and outreach
  • e-epidemiology
  • privacy-preserving solutions for public health studies that involve person-identifiable data

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Using a Theoretical Framework to Investigate Whether the HIV/AIDS Information Needs of the AfroAIDSinfo Web Portal Members Are Met: A South African eHealth Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(4), 3570-3585; doi:10.3390/ijerph110403570
Received: 21 January 2014 / Revised: 26 February 2014 / Accepted: 7 March 2014 / Published: 28 March 2014
PDF Full-text (319 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
eHealth has been identified as a useful approach to disseminate HIV/AIDS information. Together with Consumer Health Informatics (CHI), the Web-to-Public Knowledge Transfer Model (WPKTM) has been applied as a theoretical framework to identify consumer needs for AfroAIDSinfo, a South African Web portal. As
[...] Read more.
eHealth has been identified as a useful approach to disseminate HIV/AIDS information. Together with Consumer Health Informatics (CHI), the Web-to-Public Knowledge Transfer Model (WPKTM) has been applied as a theoretical framework to identify consumer needs for AfroAIDSinfo, a South African Web portal. As part of the CHI practice, regular eSurveys are conducted to determine whether these needs are changing and are continually being met. eSurveys show high rates of satisfaction with the content as well as the modes of delivery. The nature of information is thought of as reliable to reuse; both for education and for referencing of information. Using CHI and the WPKTM as a theoretical framework, it ensures that needs of consumers are being met and that they find the tailored methods of presenting the information agreeable. Combining ICTs and theories in eHealth interventions, this approach can be expanded to deliver information in other sectors of public health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
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Open AccessArticle Clustering Multivariate Time Series Using Hidden Markov Models
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(3), 2741-2763; doi:10.3390/ijerph110302741
Received: 4 December 2013 / Revised: 6 February 2014 / Accepted: 19 February 2014 / Published: 6 March 2014
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (393 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper we describe an algorithm for clustering multivariate time series with variables taking both categorical and continuous values. Time series of this type are frequent in health care, where they represent the health trajectories of individuals. The problem is challenging because
[...] Read more.
In this paper we describe an algorithm for clustering multivariate time series with variables taking both categorical and continuous values. Time series of this type are frequent in health care, where they represent the health trajectories of individuals. The problem is challenging because categorical variables make it difficult to define a meaningful distance between trajectories. We propose an approach based on Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), where we first map each trajectory into an HMM, then define a suitable distance between HMMs and finally proceed to cluster the HMMs with a method based on a distance matrix. We test our approach on a simulated, but realistic, data set of 1,255 trajectories of individuals of age 45 and over, on a synthetic validation set with known clustering structure, and on a smaller set of 268 trajectories extracted from the longitudinal Health and Retirement Survey. The proposed method can be implemented quite simply using standard packages in R and Matlab and may be a good candidate for solving the difficult problem of clustering multivariate time series with categorical variables using tools that do not require advanced statistic knowledge, and therefore are accessible to a wide range of researchers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle Health Recommender Systems: Concepts, Requirements, Technical Basics and Challenges
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(3), 2580-2607; doi:10.3390/ijerph110302580
Received: 3 December 2013 / Revised: 4 February 2014 / Accepted: 8 February 2014 / Published: 3 March 2014
Cited by 13 | PDF Full-text (649 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
During the last decades huge amounts of data have been collected in clinical databases representing patients’ health states (e.g., as laboratory results, treatment plans, medical reports). Hence, digital information available for patient-oriented decision making has increased drastically but is often scattered across different
[...] Read more.
During the last decades huge amounts of data have been collected in clinical databases representing patients’ health states (e.g., as laboratory results, treatment plans, medical reports). Hence, digital information available for patient-oriented decision making has increased drastically but is often scattered across different sites. As as solution, personal health record systems (PHRS) are meant to centralize an individual’s health data and to allow access for the owner as well as for authorized health professionals. Yet, expert-oriented language, complex interrelations of medical facts and information overload in general pose major obstacles for patients to understand their own record and to draw adequate conclusions. In this context, recommender systems may supply patients with additional laymen-friendly information helping to better comprehend their health status as represented by their record. However, such systems must be adapted to cope with the specific requirements in the health domain in order to deliver highly relevant information for patients. They are referred to as health recommender systems (HRS). In this article we give an introduction to health recommender systems and explain why they are a useful enhancement to PHR solutions. Basic concepts and scenarios are discussed and a first implementation is presented. In addition, we outline an evaluation approach for such a system, which is supported by medical experts. The construction of a test collection for case-related recommendations is described. Finally, challenges and open issues are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle Evaluation of Health Care System Reform in Hubei Province, China
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2262-2277; doi:10.3390/ijerph110202262
Received: 6 November 2013 / Revised: 24 January 2014 / Accepted: 28 January 2014 / Published: 21 February 2014
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (594 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study established a set of indicators for and evaluated the effects of health care system reform in Hubei Province (China) from 2009 to 2011 with the purpose of providing guidance to policy-makers regarding health care system reform. The resulting indicators are based
[...] Read more.
This study established a set of indicators for and evaluated the effects of health care system reform in Hubei Province (China) from 2009 to 2011 with the purpose of providing guidance to policy-makers regarding health care system reform. The resulting indicators are based on the “Result Chain” logic model and include the following four domains: Inputs and Processes, Outputs, Outcomes and Impact. Health care system reform was evaluated using the weighted TOPSIS and weighted Rank Sum Ratio methods. Ultimately, the study established a set of indicators including four grade-1 indicators, 16 grade-2 indicators and 76 grade-3 indicators. The effects of the reforms increased year by year from 2009 to 2011 in Hubei Province. The health status of urban and rural populations and the accessibility, equity and quality of health services in Hubei Province were improved after the reforms. This sub-national case can be considered an example of a useful approach to the evaluation of the effects of health care system reform, one that could potentially be applied in other provinces or nationally. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle Performance Evaluation of Public Non-Profit Hospitals Using a BP Artificial Neural Network: The Case of Hubei Province in China
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(8), 3619-3633; doi:10.3390/ijerph10083619
Received: 5 June 2013 / Revised: 1 August 2013 / Accepted: 5 August 2013 / Published: 15 August 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (289 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
To provide a reference for evaluating public non-profit hospitals in the new environment of medical reform, we established a performance evaluation system for public non-profit hospitals. The new “input-output” performance model for public non-profit hospitals is based on four primary indexes (input, process,
[...] Read more.
To provide a reference for evaluating public non-profit hospitals in the new environment of medical reform, we established a performance evaluation system for public non-profit hospitals. The new “input-output” performance model for public non-profit hospitals is based on four primary indexes (input, process, output and effect) that include 11 sub-indexes and 41 items. The indicator weights were determined using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and entropy weight method. The BP neural network was applied to evaluate the performance of 14 level-3 public non-profit hospitals located in Hubei Province. The most stable BP neural network was produced by comparing different numbers of neurons in the hidden layer and using the “Leave-one-out” Cross Validation method. The performance evaluation system we established for public non-profit hospitals could reflect the basic goal of the new medical health system reform in China. Compared with PLSR, the result indicated that the BP neural network could be used effectively for evaluating the performance public non-profit hospitals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle Using a Relational Database to Index Infectious Disease Information
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(5), 2177-2190; doi:10.3390/ijerph7052177
Received: 8 March 2010 / Revised: 27 April 2010 / Accepted: 27 April 2010 / Published: 4 May 2010
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (101 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Mapping medical knowledge into a relational database became possible with the availability of personal computers and user-friendly database software in the early 1990s. To create a database of medical knowledge, the domain expert works like a mapmaker to first outline the domain and
[...] Read more.
Mapping medical knowledge into a relational database became possible with the availability of personal computers and user-friendly database software in the early 1990s. To create a database of medical knowledge, the domain expert works like a mapmaker to first outline the domain and then add the details, starting with the most prominent features. The resulting "intelligent database" can support the decisions of healthcare professionals. The intelligent database described in this article contains profiles of 275 infectious diseases. Users can query the database for all diseases matching one or more specific criteria (symptom, endemic region of the world, or epidemiological factor). Epidemiological factors include sources (patients, water, soil, or animals), routes of entry, and insect vectors. Medical and public health professionals could use such a database as a decision-support software tool. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle Text and Structural Data Mining of Influenza Mentions in Web and Social Media
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(2), 596-615; doi:10.3390/ijerph7020596
Received: 9 November 2009 / Accepted: 10 February 2010 / Published: 22 February 2010
Cited by 78 | PDF Full-text (1107 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Text and structural data mining of web and social media (WSM) provides a novel disease surveillance resource and can identify online communities for targeted public health communications (PHC) to assure wide dissemination of pertinent information. WSM that mention influenza are harvested over a
[...] Read more.
Text and structural data mining of web and social media (WSM) provides a novel disease surveillance resource and can identify online communities for targeted public health communications (PHC) to assure wide dissemination of pertinent information. WSM that mention influenza are harvested over a 24-week period, 5 October 2008 to 21 March 2009. Link analysis reveals communities for targeted PHC. Text mining is shown to identify trends in flu posts that correlate to real-world influenza-like illness patient report data. We also bring to bear a graph-based data mining technique to detect anomalies among flu blogs connected by publisher type, links, and user-tags. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
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Open AccessArticle Connectivity for Healthcare and Well-Being Management: Examples from Six European Projects
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6(7), 1947-1971; doi:10.3390/ijerph6071947
Received: 26 May 2009 / Accepted: 2 July 2009 / Published: 6 July 2009
Cited by 52 | PDF Full-text (731 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Technological advances and societal changes in recent years have contributed to a shift in traditional care models and in the relationship between patients and their doctors/carers, with (in general) an increase in the patient-carer physical distance and corresponding changes in the modes of
[...] Read more.
Technological advances and societal changes in recent years have contributed to a shift in traditional care models and in the relationship between patients and their doctors/carers, with (in general) an increase in the patient-carer physical distance and corresponding changes in the modes of access to relevant care information by all groups. The objective of this paper is to showcase the research efforts of six projects (that the authors are currently, or have recently been, involved in), CAALYX, eCAALYX, COGKNOW, EasyLine+, I2HOME, and SHARE-it, all funded by the European Commission towards a future where citizens can take an active role into managing their own healthcare. Most importantly, sensitive groups of citizens, such as the elderly, chronically ill and those suffering from various physical and cognitive disabilities, will be able to maintain vital and feature-rich connections with their families, friends and healthcare providers, who can then respond to, and prevent, the development of adverse health conditions in those they care for in a timely manner, wherever the carers and the people cared for happen to be. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
Open AccessArticle A Service-Oriented Healthcare Message Alerting Architecture in an Asia Medical Center: A Case Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6(6), 1870-1881; doi:10.3390/ijerph6061870
Received: 15 April 2009 / Accepted: 10 June 2009 / Published: 17 June 2009
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (439 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper illustrates how our development team has used some information technologies to let physicians obtain an instant abnormal laboratory result report for critical patient care services. We have implementeda healthcare message alerting system (HMAS) on a healthcare short message service (HSMS) engine
[...] Read more.
This paper illustrates how our development team has used some information technologies to let physicians obtain an instant abnormal laboratory result report for critical patient care services. We have implementeda healthcare message alerting system (HMAS) on a healthcare short message service (HSMS) engine and the distributed healthcare-oriented service environment (DiHOSE) in the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH). The HSMS engine has a general interface for all applications which could easily send any kind of alerting messages. Fundamentally, the DiHOSE uses HL7 standard formats to process the information exchange behaviors and can be flexibly extended for reasonable user requirements. The disease surveillance subsystem is an integral part of NTUH new hospital information system which is based on DiHOSE and the disease surveillance subsystem would send alerting messages through the HSMS engine. The latest cell phone message alerting subsystem, a case study, in NTUH proved that the DiHOSE could integrate the user required functions without much work. We concluded that both HSMS and DiHOSE can generalize and extend application demands efficiently. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)

Review

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Open AccessReview A Review of Data Quality Assessment Methods for Public Health Information Systems
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(5), 5170-5207; doi:10.3390/ijerph110505170
Received: 20 January 2014 / Revised: 7 May 2014 / Accepted: 7 May 2014 / Published: 14 May 2014
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (620 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
High quality data and effective data quality assessment are required for accurately evaluating the impact of public health interventions and measuring public health outcomes. Data, data use, and data collection process, as the three dimensions of data quality, all need to be assessed
[...] Read more.
High quality data and effective data quality assessment are required for accurately evaluating the impact of public health interventions and measuring public health outcomes. Data, data use, and data collection process, as the three dimensions of data quality, all need to be assessed for overall data quality assessment. We reviewed current data quality assessment methods. The relevant study was identified in major databases and well-known institutional websites. We found the dimension of data was most frequently assessed. Completeness, accuracy, and timeliness were the three most-used attributes among a total of 49 attributes of data quality. The major quantitative assessment methods were descriptive surveys and data audits, whereas the common qualitative assessment methods were interview and documentation review. The limitations of the reviewed studies included inattentiveness to data use and data collection process, inconsistency in the definition of attributes of data quality, failure to address data users’ concerns and a lack of systematic procedures in data quality assessment. This review study is limited by the coverage of the databases and the breadth of public health information systems. Further research could develop consistent data quality definitions and attributes. More research efforts should be given to assess the quality of data use and the quality of data collection process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
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Open AccessReview The Role of Health Kiosks in 2009: Literature and Informant Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6(6), 1818-1855; doi:10.3390/ijerph6061818
Received: 22 May 2009 / Accepted: 8 June 2009 / Published: 11 June 2009
Cited by 25 | PDF Full-text (718 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Kiosks can provide patients with access to health systems in public locations, but with increasing home Internet access their usefulness is questioned. A literature and informant review identified kiosks used for taking medical histories, health promotion, self assessment, consumer feedback, patient registration, patient
[...] Read more.
Kiosks can provide patients with access to health systems in public locations, but with increasing home Internet access their usefulness is questioned. A literature and informant review identified kiosks used for taking medical histories, health promotion, self assessment, consumer feedback, patient registration, patient access to records, and remote consultations. Sited correctly with good interfaces, kiosks can be used by all demographics but many ‘projects’ have failed to become routine practice. A role remains for: (a) integrated kiosks as part of patient ‘flow’, (b) opportunistic kiosks to catch people’s attention. Both require clear ‘ownership’ to succeed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health Informatics)
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