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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Security and Privacy: Where are we headed

So, the new iPhone's are here, along with new security features.  Combine that with this recent bit in my inbox and I have a few predictions.

A study published in Healthcare Informatics Research finds 73 percent of medical professionals have used another staff member's password to access a patient's electronic health record at work, HealthITSecurity reports.


Facial recognition, will be used to solve for this problem.  Patient safety advocates will jump in to take advantage of the technology, which will be followed shortly thereafter by the computer saying, you look tired, are you sure you should be caring for patients …

At some point in time, this will move into the commercial domain (e.g., software developers, others creating IP).  It will expand into eavesdropping protection, which will lead to DOS attacks by small children popping their heads up in the seat behind you while you are trying to get work done on the plane or train or subway.

At some point at an IHE Connecthon, all testing work will stop as we all have to get exceptions to have competitors in the same room with our code, but cannot complete the process with them standing too close. This will lead to an eventual revolt against security and privacy altogether as similar challenges pop up across the business spectrum.

Eventually we will give up altogether on having any sort of privacy or security, and the world will live peacefully together.

   Keith

P.S. And then the aliens come and wipe us all out because we couldn't even hide from them properly.

Restricted Includes

Call me stupid. I spent the last 12 hours working on a performance challenge before I realized what the real solution was.  The issue was that I was using a FHIR _include parameter on an existing query to get included resources that needed to be displayed.  The performance was absolutely miserable.

To explain a bit, MedicationStatement and MedicationOrder reflect two different sides of an intention that a patient be given or taking certain medications.  The MedicationStatement resource is (quoting DSTU2):

A record of a medication that is being consumed by a patient. A MedicationStatement may indicate that the patient may be taking the medication now, or has taken the medication in the past or will be taking the medication in the future. The source of this information can be the patient, significant other (such as a family member or spouse), or a clinician.

Whereas MedicationOrder is:

An order for both supply of the medication and the instructions for administration of the medication to a patient. 

And while neither MedicationOrder nor MedicationStatement reference each other, the MedicationStatement does provide for "supportingInformation" as a Reference to any resource.  I wanted to link the two to show the physician intention with the actual prescriptions and refills given.

But then when querying for MedicationStatement for a time period, I also wanted MedicationOrder, so I just grabbed the included references.  Needless to say, this was a MISTAKE, because a patient may have been taking a medication for years and had literally hundreds of refills (I'm not kidding here 3 years of monthly refills on three meds is > 100, and hell, that could even be me).

The first sign of this was some icky performance.  But see, the MedicationOrder stuff is there not because I have an immediate use for it, but rather because I'm following the CCD/CCDA pattern long established, and I KNOW it will be used in something I have to work with downstream, so I included it.  So, it is kinda hidden and took a while to track down.  AND then I spent about 8 hours trying to improve the performance of the MedicationOrder retrieval instead of asking about the quantity of data.

It might have been advantageous to go after MedicationOrder in the _include because of my data model and processing flow, but FHIR syntax for queries don't cross into _included resource in DSTU2 (I get to play with STU3 soon, maybe they've solved the problem there).  I cannot in DSTU2 say: Give me these MedicationStatement resources, with ONLY the _included MedicationOrder resources that look like that.  Yeah, I'm sure I could use the extended query syntax to get to this, but I'm looking for a bit more elegance here (that's what engineers call complexity that looks cool).

So, here's my thought on syntax:

_include=MedicationStatement:supportingInformation:MedicationOrder(setName)&_restrict:setName.searchParam=value

This would name the set of included fields, AND allow me to set an inclusion restriction on them.
If we only had that, AND if I implemented it, my problem would be solved.  A simple matter of programming, what? Yeah.

Nah.  FHIR Query syntax is complicated enough.  But here is a use case for something we haven't thought of and the nice thing about it is that it seems simple enough to understand (even if I don't yet really know how to implement it).  Is it in the 80%?  Maybe.  I have ONE use case for this.  I could probably find others.  I'm not going to spend much more time on this, I still have to fix that performance problem now that I've found it.

   Keith





Monday, September 25, 2017

In my Inbox

This morning I received a long not necessarily relevant announcement to email list I don't remember subscribing to, followed by 30 replies. The replies are all from relatively educated people, many of whom know better, and are summarized below for your reading amusement:

R1: Please remove me from this list
R2: Hi R2, R3 did not send this to you ...
R3: I am not R2
R4: Please respond to the person/s directly and not send a reply to all
R5: Please remove me from all future emails concerning this program
R6: I find reply all useful when unsure who the admin is.
R7: Must you use "reply to all"
R8: Meme "Reply All"
R9: For God's sake everybody -- quit hitting 'reply all' ...
R10: Please remove me as well.
R11: The same here.
R12: This is officially ridiculous. Can everyone stop replying to all these emails?
R13: Same
R14: I don’t know what this email is either and I certainly did not send it out. Please remove me as well.
R15: Hitting reply on the original message only sends the message to the person who sent the email which should be the admin of the list.
R8: Good luck, R3! Keep me posted on the outcome.
R17: Please remove me from your list...
R8: Who's on first?
R20: You guys realize by replying all and asking people to stop replying all that you're just part of the problem, right?...
R21: I just became an Ohio State fan…
R22: I don’t know why I am on this list, so please remove me as well, whoever the admin is.
R23: And good Lord, people, there’s a contact email in the body of the original message:______
Although I must say this has been highly entertaining and a big improvement over the typical Monday.
R24: Please remove me from this list.
R25: Please remove me from this list. Thank you!
R26: Dear whomever, I already have <degree>.  I need <job>...
R27: 
R28: Me too (in reply to me too).
R29: It appears the original email came from ____. Please direct your request to her alone...
R30: Sorry R?, but hitting reply to all just fills our inboxes with garbage.

    ... and still going ...

P.S. My e-mail is simply going to point to this blog post and ask everyone to comment here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Comparing Dynamically Generated Documents

Sometimes to see if two things are similar, you have to ignore some of the finer details.  When applications dynamically generate CDA or FHIR output, a lot of details are necessary, but you cannot control always control all the values.  So, you need to ignore the detail to see the important things.  Is there a problem here?  Ignore the suits, look at the guns.

Creating unit tests against a baseline XML can be difficult because of detail. What you can do in these cases is remove the stuff that doesn't matter, and enforce some rigor on other stuff in ways you control rather than your XML parser, transformer or generation infrastructure.

The stylesheet below is an example of just such a tool.  If you run it over your CDA document, it will do a few things:

  1. Remove some content (such as the document id and effective time) which are usually unique and dynamically determined.
  2. Clean up ID attributes such that every ID attribute is numbered in document order in the format ID-1. 
  3. Ensure that internal references to those ID attributes still point to the thing that they originally did.

This stylesheet uses the identity transformation with some little tweaks to "clean up" the things we don't care to compare.  It's a pretty simple tool so I won't go into great detail about how to use it.

   Keith


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" 
  xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform" xmlns:cda="urn:hl7-org:v3">
  <xsl:template match="@*|node()">
    <xsl:copy>
      <xsl:apply-templates select="@*|node()"/>
    </xsl:copy>
  </xsl:template>
  
  <xsl:template match='@ID'>
    <xsl:attribute name="ID">
      <xsl:text>ID-</xsl:text>
      <xsl:number count='//*[@ID]'/>
    </xsl:attribute>
  </xsl:template>
  
  <xsl:template match='/cda:ClinicalDocument/cda:id|/cda:ClinicalDocument/cda:effectiveTime|/cda:ClinicalDocument/cda:*/cda:time'>
    <xsl:copy>Ignored for Comparison</xsl:copy>
  </xsl:template>
  
  <xsl:template match="cda:reference/@value[starts-with(.,'#')]">
    <xsl:attribute name="value">
      <xsl:text>#ID-</xsl:text>
      <xsl:value-of select='count(//*[@ID=substring-after(current(),"#")]/preceding::*/@ID)+1'/>
    </xsl:attribute>
  </xsl:template>
  
  <xsl:template match='@ID' mode='count'>
    <xsl:attribute name="ID">
      <xsl:text>#ID-</xsl:text>
      <xsl:number count='//*[@ID]'/>
    </xsl:attribute>
  </xsl:template>
  
</xsl:stylesheet>


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Matt the Mighty, A PrecisionMedicine Super Hero (Dad)

Every year in September, HL7 has its "Plenary" session. This is a half day where we hear from folks outside of the working groups on important topics related to what we do.

This year we heard from Matt Might, whom I now would christen Matt the Mighty for his Super-Dad precision medicine powers.  Either that, or as close in real life as one could come to a Doctor McCoy.

You really have to hear him tell the whole story because A) He is an awesome story teller, and B) there's simply so much more depth to it.

The long and short of it though, is not only does he help to figure out how to identify a rare (n=1?) disease, and develop a diagnostic test for it, and identify other possible sufferers, but also a treatment (not a complete cure,  but addressing some effects) among already FDA approved substances (lucking out on an OTC drug), and develops model legislation that his state passes to allow for "Right to Try" use of medications for these cases, and builds a process by which other n=1? disease patients can benefit from it, starting with his own son.

That's Mighty powerful application of precision medicine (pun fully intended).  If you weren't here, I'm sorry you missed it, and urge you to listen to him speak elsewhere.

   Keith

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Demand Driven Pricing

One of the things we've seen from early warnings about Hurricane Irma is a significant increase in prices in airline fares from some airlines.  Some of this, I'm sure is due to automated pricing algorithms on fares based on demand, for which there may very well be little or no human intervention.

That got me to thinking about how demand driven pricing AND demand driven reimbursement could have an interesting impact on prices for healthcare services IF it were possible to apply them more interactively and faster.

In the battle of algorithms, the organization with the best data would most likely win.  I see four facets to that evaluation of "Best": Breadth, Expression, Savvy, and Treatment (see what I did there?).

  • Breadth
    More bigger data is better.
  • Expression
    If your data is organized in a way that makes correlations more obvious, then you can gain an advantage.
  • Savvy
    If you know how A relates to B, you also gain an advantage.  Organization is related to comprehension.
  • Treatment
    Can you execute?  Does the data sing to you, or do you have to filter signal from a vast collection of white noise?
In the 5P model of healthcare system stakeholders, Polity (Government), Payer, Provider, Patient, and Proprietor (Employers):
  1. Who has the largest breadth of data? The smallest?
  2. Who has the best expression of data? The worst?
  3. Who has the greatest savvy for the data? The least?
  4. Who will be most able to treat the data to their best advantage? The least?

It seems pretty clear that the patient has the short end of the stick on most of this, except perhaps on their "personal" collection of data.

Payers are probably in better shape than others with regard to breadth, followed closely by Polity. The reason I say that is because government data is dispersed ... the left hand and the right hand can barely touch in some places.  Providers rarely have the breadth unless they begin to take on the Payer role as well (e.g., Kaiser, Intermountain, et cetera).

Providers have a better chance of having better expression, being able to tie treatment to condition in more detail, and have some chance at understanding outcomes as well.

It's not clear that employers are THAT much better off than patients, although frankly I honestly don't know how much information they really have.

Treatment is where it all comes together, and right now in the US, it seems that nobody has yet found the right treatment ...

Anyway, it's an interesting place to explore further.

   Keith


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Good, the bad and the ugly (HL7 Ballots)

Polling StationHL7 Balloting just closed this last hour.  Here's my recap of what I looked at, how I felt about it, and where I think the ballot will wind up from worst to best.  Note: My star ratings aren't just about the quality of the material, its a complex formula involving the quality of the material, the likelyhood of it being implemented, the potential value to end users and the phase of the moon on the first Monday in the third week of August in the year the material was balloted.

VMR (Virtual Medical Record) 
  1. HL7 Implementation Guide: Decision Support Service, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1018)
  2. HL7 Version 2 Implementation Guide: Implementing the Virtual Medical Record for Clinical Decision Support (vMR-CDS), Release 1 (PI ID: 184)
  3. HL7 Version 3 Standard: Decision Support Service (DSS), Release 2 (PI ID: 1015)
  4. HL7 Virtual Medical Record for Clinical Decision Support (vMR-CDS) Logical Model, Release 2 (PI ID: 1017)
  5. HL7 Virtual Medical Record for Clinical Decision Support (vMR-CDS) Templates, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1030)
  6. HL7 Virtual Medical Record for Clinical Decision Support (vMR-CDS) XML Specification, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1016)

This had a total of six artifacts on the ballot.  Together they get 1 star for being able to pass muster to go to ballot.  As a family of specifications, this collection of material looks like it was written by a dozen different people across multiple workgroups with three different processes. What is sad here is that the core group of people who have been working on this material for some time (including me) is the same across much of this work, and it all comes out of the same place.  VMR was always an ugly stepchild in HL7, and these specifications don't make it much better.  Don't lose hope though, because QUICK and CQL are significant improvements, and the FHIR-based clinical decision support work such as CDS Hooks is much more promising. All appear to have achieved quorum and seem likely to pass once through reconciliation.

Release 2: Functional Profile; Work and Health, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1202)   
Yet another functional model.  Decent stuff if that is what excites you.  I find functional models boring mostly because they aren't being used as intended where it matters.  Pretty likely to pass.

HL7 Version 2.9 Messaging Standard (PI ID: 773) 
The last? of a dying breed of standard.  Maybe? Please? Not enough votes to pass yet, but could happen after reconciliation (which is where V2 usually passes).

Pharmacist Care Plan  
  1. HL7 CDA® R2 Implementation Guide: Pharmacist Care Plan Document, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1232)
  2. HL7 FHIR® Implementation Guide: Pharmacist Care Plan Document, Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1232)
Another duo, missing the overweight architectural structure of VMR, but certainly adequate for what it is trying to accomplish.  The question I have hear is about its relevance.  Except in inpatient settings, I find the notion of a pharmacist care plan for a patient to be of very little value at this stage.  In fact, we need more attention on care planning in the ambulatory setting.

These are for comment only ballots and the voting reflects it.  While not likely to "pass", the comment only status guarantees that these will go back through another cycle.  Based on the voting, the material needs it.

HL7 Guidance: 
Project Life Cycle for Product Development (PLCPD), Release 2 (PI ID: 1328)  
HL7 continues to ballot its own processes.  What makes this one funny is that this particular ballot comes out of a workgroup in the Technical and Support Services steering division, which previously rejected another group in that divisions balloting a document because T3SD (their acronym) doesn't do ballots (BTW: That's a completely inadequate summary of what really happened, some day if you buy me a beer I'll get _ and _ to tell you the story.  Better yet, buy them beers).

It's a decent document, and likely to "pass".

HL7 CDA® R2 Implementation Guide: 
International Patient Summary, Release 1 (PI ID: 1087) 
I could get more excited about this particular piece of work if it weren't for the fact that it's all about getting treatment internationally, rather than being an international standard that would eliminate some of the need to deal with cross border issues.  But, it's the former rather than the latter, so only three stars.  A lot of the work spends time dealing with all the tiny little details about making everyone happy on every end instead of getting someone to make some decent decisions that enable true international coordination.

This one is tight, will likely pass in reconciliation, and is getting a lot of international eyes on it.  It's good stuff.

UDI Implementation: 

  1. HL7 Domain Analysis Model: Unique Device Identifier (UDI) Implementation Guidance, Release 1 (PI ID: 1238)
  2. HL7 CDA® R2 Implementation Guide: Consolidated CDA Templates for Clinical Notes; Unique Device Identifier (UDI) Templates, Release 1 - US Realm

By itself, neither one of these might have gotten four stars.  Together they do.  UDI needs a lot of explaining for people.  These documents help.

While the balloting looks tough (the second document is "failing" to pass by a 2/3 majority), it's all about doing what DOD, VA, and others want to ensure interoperability between them.

HL7 CDA® R2 Implementation Guide: 
Consolidated CDA Templates for Clinical Notes; Advance Directives Templates, 
Release 1 - US Realm (PI ID: 1323)  

This is a useful addition to what we can do today with Advance Directives, and a great example of how to deal with backwards compatibility right, and they almost nailed it perfectly (my one negative comment on this item is a fine point).

Not a lead-pipe cinch but surely the issues in this one will be resolved during reconciliation.

HL7 CDA® R2 Implementation Guide: 
Quality Reporting Document Architecture Category I (QRDA I) Release 1, 
STU Release 5 - US Realm (PI ID: 210) 
Useful, necessary, and boring, but of great value.  Sometimes it pays to be boring.
Definitely a lead-pipe cinch to pass.  Third highest in positive votes, with 0 negatives.

HL7 Cross-Paradigm Specification: 
Allergy and Intolerance Substance Value Set(s) Definition, Release 1 (PI ID: 1272) 
ABOUT. DAMN. TIME. An allergy value set we can all use. Nuf said.
The interesting back story here is who is voting negative (who cares) about this.  It looks like a lot of VA/DOD interoperability is going to get decided through standards. I'm pretty certain this stuff is going to get worked out, which has tremendous value to the rest of us.

HL7 FHIR® IG: SMART Application Launch Framework, Release 1 (PI ID: 1341) 
I spend the most time commenting on this one.  I'm looking forward to this seeing this published as an HL7 Standard and in getting some overall improvements to what I've been implementing for the past year or so.

There's definitely some good feedback on this ballot (which means likely to take a while in reconciliation), even though it seems very likely to pass.

HL7 Clinical Document Architecture, Release 2.1 (PI ID: 1150) 
This was the surprise of the lot for me.  I expected to be bored, having said CDA is Dead not quite four years ago.  I was, pleasantly so.  There was only one contentious issue for me (the new support added for tables in tables). They got to four stars by making sure all the issues we've encountered over the past decade and more were addressed. They got an extra star by making it easy to find what had changed in the content since CDA R2.  All in all, a pleasant surprise. CDA R2 still reigns supreme, but I think CDA R2.1 might very well become regent until CDA on FHIR is of age.
Oh yeah.  It passed, so very likely to go normative, which will make discussions about the standard in the next round of certification VERY interesting.

   Keith