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Enabling Collaboration to Improve Health

May 26, 2009

KMDI at 13, Knowledge Media Design Institute Lecture Series in “Digital Media Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto”, Part II.


Web-based Video Conferencing Support Programs for Family Caregivers and for Older Adults with Chronic Disease by Dr. Elsa Marziali, Baycrest Centre

Abstract: This presentation will focus on the design and use of technology to provide e-health services to persons in their homes. We will report the results of several studies of online, video conferencing educational support group programs for caregivers of persons with chronic disease and intervention programs for patients with chronic disease. Web pages, video-audio interactivity, and information access were designed according to usability criteria sensitive to the physical and attention limitations of older adult caregivers and patients. Unique to our approach is the use of web-based video conferencing in group format with the aim of replicating face-to-face health care educational/support programs typically provided by clinic-based health care professionals.

Our approach addresses the health care needs of older adults with chronic disease and their caregivers by delivering to their homes educational, psychosocial support interventions that help with the management of chronic disease and improve quality of life. The overall aims of our web based e-health programs include; a) helping chronically ill older adults and their caregivers manage prescribed medical regimes more effectively, achieve improved health outcomes, and maintain a satisfactory quality of life; and b) reducing utilization of health services and lowering overall health care costs.

Brief Bio: Professor Marziali is a Senior Scientist at the Kunin Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit of the Rotman Institute at Baycrest. Marziali obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Practice and Research in 1971 from Smith College School of Social Work. Dr. Marziali’s ongoing research interest is in the development and testing of computer/internet-based supportive interventions for family caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s, stroke or Parkinson’s disease. In addition she is developing and evaluating internet-based health support programs for patients with chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension and stroke.

Collaborative Diagnostics and the Intercase: Addressing the One Person One Record Problem
by Peter Pennefather and West Suhanic, Pharmacy

Abstract: We describe an approach to the “one person, one health record” problem based on creating suitably annotated duplicates of electronic medical record data routinely collected in a person’s name and stored in the custody of the health system. These duplicates are then encased in a single network accessible file called the BioTIFF with access overseen by their subjects. This approach creates records that are functionally equivalent to health care system records. It liberates that data by enabling convenient tracking and consenting procedures for multiple secondary uses while maintaining true privacy (e.g. personal control over personal information access). The LCD has also developed a new type of interface that we call the Intercase for interacting with very large, very sensitive data clouds linking many unique clinical cases. The Intercase is created using highly customizable open-source software and launched from an external USB drive on an impersonal but customizable and inexpensive commodity processor box running a mid range CPU. 

The Intercase is adapted to the bridging needs of the transaction at hand and can recreate a customized and personalized internet access desktop wherever a processor box is available. Nothing personal is left behind on this data communication switch when powered down, simplifying the task of regulating access to sensitive data. This arrangement sets the stage for Collaborative Diagnostics.

Brief Bio: Dr Peter S. Pennefather, Ph.D, is academic director of the Laboratory for Collaborative Diagnostics (LCD; and a professor at the University of Toronto (UofT) Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. He teaches courses in Fundamentals of Drug Discovery. Primary Health Care Informatics and Global Health, and Molecular Pharmacology. His current research focuses on new ways of collaboratively imaging, monitoring, interpreting, and communicating personal biophysical health data in ways that co-locates personal narratives with meta and primary personal health records; doing so using commodity consumer electronic technologies that are globally accessible in ways that make that information ubiquitously shareable. The LCD works with several collaborators, institutions, and companies to develop new procedures for aggregating, annotating, and simplifying distributed, digital, diagnostic, data using BioTIFF and InterCase technologies with the goal of defining new and sustainable ways of utilizing diagnostic and analytical information in comprehensive health care decision support. He is the president of gDial. Inc, and a member of the George Brown College Innovation Advisory Board.

Brief Bio: West Suhanic, Ph.D., is co-founder and Executive Director of the Laboratory for Collaborative Diagnostics-( at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto where he is a visiting scientist. He has written articles on subjects ranging from diagnostic imaging in the health care system, to distributed design for the automotive industry. He has also written many software systems including: on-demand large scale storage system, a neural-net database system system, real-time machine control for tape-based edit systems, a foreign exchange option trading system, an XML editor, a quintic spline-based interest rate forecasting model for a major Canadian bank and currently is writing the LCD’s BioTIFF software. Dr. Suhanic has pursued a number of policy initiatives ranging from convincing the Government of Canada to adopt a National Design Policy to creating a new mechanism for financing start-up corporations in Canadian Universities. Dr. Suhanic is the CEO of gDial Inc.

The talk will be webcast live & an archive will be available.  For instructions to view the webcast and further information, please visit:

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