“The same questions we had in the late ’90s and early 2000s about health data are being brought up again, but in a different way. Now my colleagues and I are looking at issues that come with the prevalence of mobile phones and access to personal health records and information. People are now able to track their activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep using wireless devices. Does that count as health data? Do doctors need to see how many steps you walked each day? “
The same questions we had in the late ’90s and early 2000s about health data are being brought up again, but in a different way. Now my colleagues and I are looking at issues that come with the prevalence of mobile phones and access to personal health records and information. People are now able to track their activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep using wireless devices. Does that count as health data? Do doctors need to see how many steps you walked each day?
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published its groundbreaking report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. During this time, Michelle Rogers was beginning to study the subject on which she would eventually build her career. Ever since, she has focused her work on the intersection of information, people, and technology.
Making Hospitals Safer
After receiving an undergraduate degree in engineering, Michelle knew she wanted to continue in academia, but with a focus on industrial engineering. This subset of the field is concerned with “mak[ing] things better in any industry,” according to the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers.
As Michelle explains, “Industrial engineering allowed me to still deal with problem-solving, but to involve systems and people, not just technology.”
While Michelle was working toward a master’s degree and then doctorate in industrial engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the topic of patient safety was coming into focus nationwide. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine revealed that more than 44,000 people die in hospitals each year from preventable medical errors. (Institute of Medicine, 1999).
“A lot of those errors were happening as a result of new health technology, and workers’ confusion around data reporting systems,” she explains. “My dissertation came out of an interest in understanding how health workers adapt to the technological changes in their jobs that they weren’t necessarily trained for.”
Since then, Michelle’s interest in the relationship between health information technology and work processes has taken her to several places, including the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Getting at Patient Safety Center, Drexel University College of Computing and Informatics, and a university hospital in Uganda.
Going Mobile for Low-Income Populations
Michelle has many opportunities to study providers and patients of all income levels at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, as well as Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Across the board, she has found that patients and their caregivers are not using health portals. In her view, the problem is in part a failure to communicate the importance of these tools.
“Doctors aren’t making recommendations to patients to use the tools,” she states. “This is unfortunate, because we know that patients act on doctors’ orders. If a doctor or nurse told a patient that these health portals were an important way of communicating health information, that patient would be more likely to actually use it.”
In low- and under-resourced areas, like the medically underserved area of North Philadelphia in which St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children is located, this communication gap presents missed opportunities.
“Our expectations dictate behavior, especially the expectations of physicians. In low-income areas, if physicians don’t think their patients will use a health tool, and therefore don’t explain it to them, then we’re missing a whole group of people for whom this tool could make all the difference.”
As she looks back on her 2013 New Connections grant, Michelle can’t help but think about the broader context of health.
“If we’re going to build a Culture of Health, we have to look at health holistically,” she states. “It isn’t just about getting patients to the doctor, but about the infrastructure needed to support hospitals and patients getting online. Or the data plans that people have. It’s all these other ripples in the water.”
This broad focus fits in perfectly with next year’s New Connections Symposium and Regional Meeting, which Michelle will co-chair at Drexel.
“The Culture of Health is all about expanding the notion of health to include more sectors than just health care and medicine,” she says. “At Drexel, we do engineering work and public health work, so we have a unique perspective to share. We’re excited to host such an amazing network of people.”
Title: Assistant Professor, Information Science, Drexel University, College of Computing and Informatics
New Connections Year: 2013
New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
Recent Publications, Peer-Reviews Conferences and Invited Presentations:
Massey, P. M., Kim, M. C., Dalrymple, P. W., Rogers, M. L., Hawthorne, K. H., & Manganello, J. A. (in press). Visualizing patterns and trends of 25 years of published health literacy research. HLRP: Health Literacy Research and Practice.
Rogers, M. L., Marquez, S. P., Turner, D., & Vibert, Y. M. (2016, October). Information technology systems to support healthcare infrastructure and training in Uganda. Workshop conducted at Strategic Alliances for the Internationalization of Higher Education (Cuba TiES), Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Dalrymple, P. W., Rogers, M., Zach, L., & Luberti, A. (2016). Understanding Internet access and use to facilitate patient portal adoption. Health Informatics Journal. doi: 10.1177/1460458216675497
Committee on Diagnostic Error in Health Care; Board on Health Care Services; Institute of Medicine; The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015). Improving diagnosis in health care. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Dulin-Keita, A., Clay, O., Whittaker, S., Hannon, L., Adams, I. K., Rogers, M., & Gans, K. (2015). The influence of HOPE VI neighborhood revitalization on neighborhood-based physical activity: A mixed-methods approach. Social Science & Medicine, 139, 90–99.