December 14, 2006

‘Project HealthDesign‘ Awards Vanderbilt University Medical Center $300,000 Grant to Design and Test Innovative, Consumer-Centered PHR Applications

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been selected as one of nine teams nationwide to participate in a landmark program from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to design and test bold ideas for how consumers can use information technology to better manage their health and navigate the health care system.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been selected as one of nine teams nationwide to participate in a landmark program from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to design and test bold ideas for how consumers can use information technology to better manage their health and navigate the health care system.

Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records, a $4.4 million initiative, announced grants to nine interdisciplinary teams that will build new tools that advance the field of personal health record (PHR) systems. Teams were chosen from a pool of more than 165 applicants and each has been selected to receive an 18-month, $300,000 award. Primary funding for Project HealthDesign is provided by RWJF‘s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative projects that may lead to breakthrough improvements in health and health care. RWJF is pleased to collaborate with The California HealthCare Foundation, which contributed an additional $900,000 to the initiative.

Vanderbilt and the other eight teams will work collaboratively to design and test a suite of PHR applications that can be built upon a common platform to help people better meet their health care needs in an integrated fashion. Such PHR tools may remind a patient to take medications, provide tailored decision prompts to help people adhere to treatment regimens for diabetes or pain therapy, or transmit data to providers – such as blood pressure readings or exercise levels – that are collected from patient self-testing and biomonitoring devices in the home.

“It‘s not just the wider use of personal health records or online access to the data they store that is so revolutionary,” said Stephen Downs, S.M., RWJF senior program officer and deputy director of the Health Group. “Project HealthDesign is challenging the PHR field to focus on the potential for patients, providers and caregivers to use this information to improve their health. The design of the systems over which this information flows is critical, and that is why we‘re excited to support the efforts of these technology pioneers to develop the next generation of PHR systems.”

Vanderbilt will apply its $300,000 grant toward designing and prototyping My-Medi-Health, a bold vision for medication management systems, focusing on blending technology and direct consumer participation to help children with special health care needs and their home-based, school-based, and other caregivers to ensure safe and effective medication delivery.

“Needless to say, we were thrilled to be selected as a participant in the Project HealthDesign Initiative”, said Kevin B. Johnson, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Informatics, and principal investigator for Vanderbilt‘s project. The work our institution has been doing to advance patient-centered health care will be complemented by this project. In particular, we are excited to address an area of national interest—medication safety, and to be able to think through it by applying our vision to children with special health care needs. The last mile (or the last 3 feet) of a comprehensive and safe medication management system for these children is complicated by the realities of life and some new technical challenges—busy people, fragmented systems of care in the community, issues of privacy and security, just-in-time versus just-in-case information dissemination, evidence about how best to educate patients, and the recognition that the issues surrounding improved administration and monitoring are not as well established in the medical literature.

Project HealthDesign, directed by Patricia Flatley Brennan, R.N., Ph.D., professor of Nursing and Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will lead grant teams through a two-phased effort. Over the first six months, teams will participate in a structured process to design user-centered personal health applications that address specific health challenges faced by individuals and caregivers. In the subsequent 12-month phase, prototypes of these personal health tools will be tested with target populations.

At every step throughout the process, teams will work closely with a specialist in the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of health information technology and personal data sharing. Ensuring the privacy of patient information and gaining an early understanding of the ELSI issues associated with the next generation of PHR systems are key objectives guiding the efforts of Project HealthDesign grantees. RWJF is supporting the ELSI consultation through a separate $149,000 grant to Kenneth W. Goodman, Ph.D., founder and director of the University of Miami‘s Bioethics Program and associate professor in its School of Medicine.

“By designing a variety of applications that can operate seamlessly within a broader PHR system, we can provide practical, consumer-oriented tools that fit the needs, preferences and lifestyles of individuals,” said Brennan. “Our vision is that the bold design efforts led by Project HealthDesign grantees will help empower patients to use PHR tools to manage health information, communicate with their providers and caregivers, and make sound decisions that can improve their health and health care.”

Program activities will launch immediately with an initial design workshop involving all grantees, where they will further define the needs and preferences of the intended users of the PHR applications. For further details about Vanderbilt University Medical Center and My-Medi-Health, visit More information about Project HealthDesign, including a listing of the other program grantees, is available at

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About Vanderbilt University Medical Center:
A major referral center for the Southeast and the nation, VUMC is made up of Vanderbilt University Hospital, The Vanderbilt Clinic, Vanderbilt Children‘s Hospital, Vanderbilt School of Medicine and Vanderbilt School of Nursing. VUMC is the region‘s largest private employer, with more than 8,000 employees and an annual economic impact that exceeds $1 billion. Services include the Burn Center, a Level I Trauma Center, the LifeFlight helicopter ambulance service, a Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Middle Tennessee Poison Center. VUMC also offers 92 specialty clinics, including the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee. For more information, go to

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation‘s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. By helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

About the California HealthCare Foundation
The California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, is an independent philanthropy committed to improving the delivery and financing of health care in California.

About the University of Wisconsin
Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the nation‘s oldest and most comprehensive public research universities, with more than 41,000 enrolled students participating in 136 undergraduate degrees, 155 master‘s programs and 110 doctoral programs, and a research enterprise that generates more than $700 million in annual extramural support.