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Dartmouth gets $3 million from the National Science Foundation for IT research in health care

HANOVER, NH Dartmouth has received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation for research to develop secure and trustworthy computing systems for healthcare settings.

The project, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, the national economic stimulus bill), is aimed at improving the security and effectiveness of information technology infrastructure in the healthcare industry, which in turn will help meet two of its most significant challenges of the 21st century: improving the quality of care and controlling costs.

Called the Trustworthy Information Systems for Healthcare (TISH) project, the Dartmouth research will address fundamental challenges in information security in healthcare, such as protecting the security of clinical information while ensuring that clinicians can access information they need, and enhancing the collection of data from wearable sensor devices to enable physicians to better monitor patients' health with both security and privacy in mind.

"Healthcare information systems are a key part of ARRA and are important for other pending healthcare reform proposals," said David Kotz, the principal investigator for TISH and a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. "Developing, deploying, and using information technology that is both secure and genuinely effective in the complex clinical, organizational, and economic environment of healthcare is a significant challenge. Our research will help address the important security and privacy challenges inherent in such systems."

Denise Anthony, part of the TISH team and the research director at Dartmouth's Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS), added, "As President Obama has made clear, the vision for a 21st century health system requires all health information in electronic form, delivered instantly and securely to individuals and their care providers when needed, and it should be capable of analysis for constant improvement and research." Anthony is also associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology.

The TISH team brings a multidisciplinary approach to develop and analyze information-sharing technology that ensures security and privacy while meeting the pragmatic needs of patients, clinical staff, and healthcare organizations to deliver efficient, high-quality care. For this project, Dartmouth's ISTS was instrumental in bringing together faculty from departments across campus, and in recruiting partners from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (White River Junction, Vt.), Intel Labs, and Google.

"The work to be performed by the ISTS team will address some of the major challenges in the effective use of information technology for healthcare," said Martin Wybourne, Vice Provost for Research. "The close association between Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center provides an excellent platform for this research."

Added Andrew Gettinger, also on the TISH team, "Identity management and authentication are vexing issues in clinical settings that if poorly managed can result in patient harm from delays or, at the other extreme, breaches in privacy that can undermine confidence in electronic health records. The national focus and exuberance for electronic health records ought to be tempered by the current reality that these systems need additional engineering to fit into the clinical workflow. This project will enable a multidisciplinary research team to examine and hopefully develop strategies to improve or mitigate some of those issues." Gettinger is the senior medical director of information systems and informatics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and an associate professor of anesthesiology at Dartmouth Medical School.

Through the three-year project, the researchers will examine privacy concerns, address security challenges, and study economic risks and benefits. The team will develop new secure, efficient, and easy-to-use protocols that allow remote health monitoring through mobile phone and wearable wireless medical sensors; design new machine-learning methods for analyzing and summarizing sensor data; seek a deeper understanding of the economics of information security in healthcare; and explore how patients and clinicians trade off usability, security, and privacy.


Contact: Sue Knapp
Dartmouth College

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