October 26, 2009

Online medical informatics journal to launch in December

Christoph Lehman

Christoph Lehmann, neonatologist and director of Clinical Informatics at Hopkins Children’s, created ‘Applied Clinical Informatics’ and will serve as editor in chief.

Two Johns Hopkins Children’s Center researchers have assembled a 25-member editorial board of international experts to launch a quarterly online medical journal devoted to original research and commentary on the use of computer automation in the day-to-day practice of medicine.

According to its editors, the creation of Applied Clinical Informatics, the official publication of the International Medical Informatics Association, reflects the booming demand for information about the pitfalls and promise of such proliferating tools as electronic patient records and online pharmacy orders.

Target audiences include clinicians already using clinical software, hospital and pharmacy executives, clinical informatics specialists and policy-makers focused on economic efficiencies and safety.

“This journal will compile worldwide research and clinical experiences with medical information systems so that hospitals and other health care institutions can learn from mistakes that have been already made. It’s a chance to do it right the first time,” said Christoph Lehmann, neonatologist and director of Clinical Informatics at Hopkins Children’s. “It is designed to bridge the gap between the medical-software engineer and the health care provider at the patient’s bedside.”

The new journal is the brainchild of Lehmann, who will be its editor in chief, and fellow medical informatician George Kim, who will act as managing editor.

A growing number of U.S. hospitals and private physician practices are already using “paperless” electronic records, “order entry” systems for prescriptions and laboratory tests, and electronic “checklists” for designing treatments and avoiding medical errors.

Such applications may speed up and improve the delivery and quality of health care, according to experts, but in many cases, the Johns Hopkins team says, the adoption of these systems has been sluggish, error-ridden and rife with unforeseen and unintended consequences and costs.

“Just as scientific publishing of medical and biological experiments helps forge best practices in surgery and drug treatments,” Kim said, “we want to publish results of all the practical tests of the brilliant eggheads’ ideas so that hospitals and others don’t have to reinvent the wheel or conduct an experiment every time they use a new computer program.”

The journal’s editors have already started to gather original research, including studies and case reports, for the debut issue expected to go online in December. Also to be featured are trend reports, editorials, accounts of negative experiences and guest blogs about the latest developments in the industry. The journal can be accessed at www.aci-journal.org.

Neither Johns Hopkins nor the editors have ownership stake in the journal.

Lehmann and Kim have published widely in the field of medical informatics and have conceived, developed and implemented several proven medical software applications used today at Johns Hopkins and other institutions. Among them are an ordering tool for pediatric chemotherapy that reduces medication errors in patients undergoing cancer treatment, an online infusion calculator that reduces medication errors in children undergoing IV infusions and a Web-based program to prescribe special categories of restricted antibiotics as a faster and safer alternative to phone or fax orders.

Applied Clinical Informatics will be published by the German publisher Schattauer.