Johns Hopkins University and TrustNetMD Awarded (AHRQ) Grant to Tap Community Health Workers’ Knowledge Using Social Media

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Johns Hopkins University and TrustNetMD Awarded Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Grant to Tap Community Health Workers’ Knowledge and Experience Using Informatics and Organizational Learning Methodology and Web 2.0 Technology

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A joint research team of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and TrustNetMD, Inc., has been awarded a $900,000 grant for "Dissemination of Evidence Based Medicine Resources to Community Health Workers Via Mobile Device Accesible Knowledge Exchanges." This grant has been awarded under the program ‘Partnership for Sustainable Research and Dissemination of Evidence Based Medicine’ sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Community Health Workers serve a significant portion of underserved communities across the United States, and there are over 120,000 providing care to those in need of healthcare services in communities where they reside. Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act creates an even bigger role for CHWs to play, there hasn’t been an established channel for receiving clear information on best medical practices. Neither has there been a way to incorporate into evidence-based best practices the CHW's knowledge and experience. The research under this award addresses these inadequacies in CHW Evidence Based Medicine resources — actively recognizing the importance of Community Health Workers to the nation’s healthcare system.

Co-Principal investigators of this study include Harold P. Lehmann, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Interim Director of the Division of Health Sciences Informatics in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; M. Christopher Gibbons, M.D., MPH, Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, and Richard Singerman Ph.D., Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder of TrustNetMD and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Division of Health Sciences Informatics in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. This team of recognized experts is deploying efficient tools to tap into the knowledge and experience of CHWs, thus improving the standard of care provided. “This is our chance to tap into the knowledge and experience of these CHWs, who are dealing with issues at the grassroots level,” says TrustNetMD’s CEO John May. “The value of social media is that it allows conversations to go both ways. In this case, the goal is to access the knowledge and experience of those who deal with patients day in and day out.”

This AHRQ initiative utilizes a task-based framework to instantly make available Evidence Based Medicine resources to participating CHWs through computer tablets connected to a wide-area WIFI network. The CHWs will then communicate with each other via an online, mobile device accessible, Knowledge Exchange (Kx) developed by TrustNetMD. The Kx combines organizational learning principles and Web 2.0 technologies to provide a just in time social learning environment for the CHWs. This informatics collaboration and planning between the physician and CHW communities is unique in creating knowledge resources tailored to CHWs and the value of these resources will be evaluated in a rigorous two-arm randomized study.

“Our team intends to improve the relevance of Evidence Based Medicine to field work by connecting to CHWs on their terms so that JHM and AHRQ can fine-tune guidelines and resources needed by CHWs,” says Dr. Lehmann

The project has several goals: First, to make available to CHWs knowledge resources we think they need. Second, to learn from CHWs which resources they really do need. Third, to enable CHWs to articulate the knowledge they have about their work and to share the ‘now-explicit’ knowledge communally.”

Dr. Gibbons states, “CHWs are foundational to our health system. They reach deep into our population, so understanding their needs and gaining their trust is crucial to improved care for a lot of people.” Dr. Singerman adds that, “Input from community health workers will provide the developers and distributors of EBM resources with feedback to improve those EBM resources and to deliver back to those in the field the information they need. The process becomes cyclical with input from everyone who delivers health care whether in hospitals, offices, clinics or patient's homes, resulting in continuously fine tuned EBM resources. We are enabling a feedback loop for translating EBM from theory to practice."

“We are indeed excited that AHRQ understands this problem and the importance of bringing CHWs into the fold,” says Dr. Lehmann, “so that we can all benefit from the knowledge and experience of these CHWs.”

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Harold Lehmann

John May