Robert Wood Johnson Foundation calls for health IT grant proposals

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has issued a call for proposals to assess and test the potential of ‘observations of daily living' (ODL) to help patients and physicians better manage chronic illnesses, with a total of up to $2.4 million available to as many as five grantee teams for 24-month demonstration projects. Grants may total up to $480,000 each.

The foundation said that funded teams will work closely with patients and providers across different care settings. Led by a national program office based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the teams will demonstrate how health data from everyday life--observations such as meals, sleep, exercise levels, pain episodes and even moods--can be collected, interpreted and integrated into the clinical care process.

Launched in 2006, Project HealthDesign last fall presented a series of new applications that could work in tandem with personal health records (PHRs) to help patients better manage their health. Nine multidisciplinary teams, supported through a first round of funding, engaged in a user-centered design process to create a range of IT tools that addressed self-management tasks--from a cell phone-enabled medication management system to alert children with cystic fibrosis when to take their medicines, to a personal digital assistant that collects and supports self-reported pain and activity data and provides a fuller picture of patients' everyday chronic pain experiences.

The $10-million Project HealthDesign is seeking to stimulate innovation in the development of PHR systems by transforming the concept of PHRs as data collection tools to PHRs as a foundation for action and improved health decision-making.

In designing the next-generation PHR applications, grantees learned that patients want to better communicate with healthcare providers using technologies that are, or could seamlessly become, part of their daily routines. Project leaders say one of the lessons from the initial phase was the importance that patients placed on collecting and sharing data that are not typically part of one's medical record, but rather from everyday life.

"We're at a time when the technology has advanced enough that we can contemplate real breakthroughs in how to work with patients that suffer from chronic diseases," said Stephen Downs, SM, assistant vice president of RWJF's Health Group.

During the two-year initiative, teams will work with clinical partners and patients who endure two or more chronic conditions to:

  • Identify, capture and store several types of ODLs for their patient population;
  • Analyze and interpret ODL data to extract clinically useful information;
  • Use the data to provide feedback to patients so that they can better manage their conditions and improve their health;
  • Enable patients to share the data with their doctors, nurses and other members of their care team;
  • Present the information so it can be integrated into the clinical work flow; and
  • Identify and explain opportunities and challenges associated with this overall approach to policymakers and clinical leaders.