Your Healthcare on Craigslist

Fast Company LogoFast Company is a business and technology online and traditional magazine which always seems to have interesting articles.


Recently, Fast Company posted this article:


Can Health Care 2.0 Be as Easy as Craigslist? Craig Thinks So


The subject of the article was Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark who was interviewed about the work he is doing with the Department of Veteran Affairs to better utilize technology for healthcare.


The article notes that Adobe won the VA’s first Blue Button Developer Challenge for the creation of an interactive platform for medical records. An image of the Adobe application is included in the article.


One thing I found interesting was to learn about how the VA is going about bringing their technology up to date:


 . . . the VA will open source its new health care ecosystem, permitting a community of developers to
co-construct the new database and allow outside institutions to modify
the codebase for their own systems. The vision is a system that permits
real-time communication between patients and doctors and isn’t held
hostage by either a painfully slow government entity or a single,
inflexible corporate partner. For developers, this means a whole new
sub-industry of opportunity.


Now, that’s forward thinking for a government agency!

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An Interview with Adobe’s Michael Jackson on the Blue Button Initiative

At the 4th Annual Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Adobe’s Michael Jackson accepted the Blue Button Developers’ Challenge Award from a distinguished panel featuring Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Peter Levin, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Learn more about the Blue Button Initiative
Check out the following video on the Health 2.0 website. It begins with Peter Levin of the VA, and it provides great background on the Blue Button initiative. It also includes footage of Michael Jackson accepting the award on behalf of Adobe at the Health 2.0 conference.



Congratulations on Adobe’s win. Tell us about your background?

I have what I like to call a “hybrid” background. I’ve always had passions for technology, healthcare, and business. Very early in my career, I served in the US Coast Guard as a Petty Officer Electronics Technician (ET). Later, I went on to earn a degree in Computer Information Systems and then an MBA, while working as a government sales manager at an IT company. For the past ten years, though, I’ve held progressive sales and marketing roles in the Life Sciences industry which supplies pharmaceuticals, implantable medical devices, and neural analysis software into the healthcare ecosystem. That’s where I developed an understanding of the complex relationships that exist between healthcare providers, payers, and patients; and the ultimate goal of improving clinical outcomes while optimizing efficiencies. Now, in my role as Healthcare Solutions Manager at Adobe, I leverage every aspect of my experience to develop strategies for real-world solutions in this rapidly evolving market.


What was the idea behind the Blue Button Challenge?

The idea behind the Blue Button is simple. By clicking a little blue button on a website, veterans are now able to download their personal health record from a portal offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The downloaded file, which often contains years’ worth of medical data, is presented in the form of a plain ASCII text file. So, a challenge was issued to developers to find ways to enable Blue Button users to meaningfully interact with their health data in a more useful way. Sharing that common goal, respondents to the challenge were diverse; ranging from start-up IT companies and individual developers to Google and Microsoft.


Tell me about Adobe’s entry in the challenge. What problems did it attempt to solve and what Adobe technologies were part of the solution?

Team Adobe approached the Blue Button Challenge development process from the very beginning with the desired end results in mind. For example, we knew that each veteran would have unique needs for the information contained within these comprehensive records. So the first order of business as we developed the vision was to simplify the user’s experience as he extracts the desired data from the health record. Whether categorized by entry type, such as lab results or prescriptions, or streamlined to within a specific time range, the health data needed to be easily manipulated in order quickly produce accurate query results.

The data output format of the Personal Health Record was critical to the solution as well, since users would need to effectively interact with their downloaded records from multiple platforms and device types. Additionally, as downloaded data leaves the confines of a controlled enterprise network, it is important to maintain the integrity and security of the files. Therefore, striking a balance between security and interoperability was a recurring theme throughout the process as well.


Adobe’s winning Blue Button Challenge submission provides two powerful options for securely downloading and interacting with personal health data. First is the Blue Button Health Assistant, designed with Adobe Air technology. Adobe AIR offers an exciting new way to engage users with innovative, branded applications, without requiring changes to existing back-end technology or processes. The intuitive Health Assistant proof-of-concept app includes a wealth of features that  transform raw data into useful information. For example, the “Tracker” dynamically charts chronic data inputs, such as blood sugar levels, so the user can visually identify trends or spikes.

The other option for interacting with the Blue Button health record is a dynamic pdf document which is automatically generated and populated with extracted health data, incorporating PDF-Healthcare Best Practices. This feature-rich pdf document is viewable online or offline, from any browser on any platform, utilizing the ubiquitous Adobe Reader. Advanced features within Reader, including digital signatures, rights management, and others are activated by the document itself as it is accessed.

What did Adobe learn as part of this process?

It was especially rewarding to participate in this challenge where Adobe technologies demonstrated an immediate impact on a real-world  scenario. The process overall helped to validate significant trends that we had previously identified, including the emerging prevalence of Personal Health Records and our ability to satisfy the need for secure and interoperable solutions throughout  the healthcare enterprise.


Anything else you want to share?

Adobe continues to identify and develop ways to leverage Open Government as more than just a concept, but rather a tool to advance agency missions.


Continue reading…

Wired Magazine redesigns Patient Lab Results Forms

At Adobe, we often talk about Engagement— the technology put in place to make customer interactions better and more meaningful.

One critical aspect of Engagement is good design. Good design is the “face” of the technology to the customer. Get it right, and you have the opportunity to delight the customer. Neglect design at your peril.

Unfortunately, as Wired Magazine pointed out in the December 2010 issue, good design in healthcare is an exception.

Here’s the lead-in paragraph from the Wired Magazine article “Blood Simple”:

Lab reports are often beyond our comprehension. But they don’t have to be. Better design and more context can clarify the results— and help us understand our options.

Amen to that!

The article is not posted on the Wired website yet. I’d suggest getting to a newstand to check out the December issue yourself.

Here’s a spread from the article to get you thinking.

Spread from December 2010 Wired Magazine Article on redesigning lab reports Continue reading…

EMR Survival Tips Audiocasts

I just listened to Dr. Stasia Kahn’s latest EMR Survival Tips Audiocast—you can play it in your browser— and I was impressed!Picture of Dr. Stasia Kahn

I first met Dr. Kahn at a HIMMS Conference two years ago in Chicago. She’s very active in the EMR and PDF Healthcare community and a real champion for using electronic medical records.

Dr. Kahn’s website has a number of useful resources to help physicians make better use of EMRs, something the doctor has done in her practice since 2005.

I think what I like best about the audiocasts is how approachable Dr. Kahn makes a subject that might be a bit scary to the less technical among us.

I also appreciate the very frank information that she shares. There is a cost to implementing EMR systems, and you can hear the challenges that a small practice might have. I think— and Dr. Kahn concurs— that eventually government incentives will offset this cost.

I’ve written here about the frustration I have with paper-based processes in the health industry, so I look forward to hearing more about the use of EMR in Dr. Kahn’s practice . . .

. . .  and hopefully yours in the future, too.

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Acrobat X Announced. See my free eSeminars.

Acrobat X (Acrobat X) was announced last week and my colleague Mark Middleton and I will be putting on eSeminars to tell you all about this exciting new release.

   Welcome to the next generation of Acrobat Dynamic PDF. Adobe Acrobat X can help give your team the power to turn unrealistic deadlines into realistic deadlines.  

Acrobat X Top New Features eSeminar

Three dates available:

  • October 28, 10 a.m. PT
  • November 09, 10 a.m. PT
  • November 09, 1 p.m. PT

(Opens in new window)

Join the Adobe Acrobat X software webinar and go from under pressure to overachieving.

Enable your organization to get more done
With the new Action wizard, you can automate repetitive tasks with a single guided action.

Accelerate review and approval processes
Use commenting tools to consolidate group feedback and easily manage shared reviews—all within PDF files.

Help your team engage and communicate more effectively
PDF Portfolio Wizard lets you quickly customize any project with new layouts, visual themes, and color palettes.


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Meaningful Use Criteria for Electronic Health Records

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offers payments to hospitals and doctors participating in
Medicare and Medicaid programs that adopt and successfully demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.


On July 28, 2010, the Federal Register published the final ruling from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS) regarding the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program which begins in 2011.

The final ruling may be found in the document titled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program”.

I reviewed the 275 page document (you can download it here) and it isn’t easy to follow. My goal was to find out where Adobe Acrobat and other Adobe offerings could be used, at least at a high level.


My first impressions is that from a technical level it is not a well-authored document and difficult to use. Notable problems with the document:

  • No navigational bookmarks or links
  • No Table of Contents
  • Tables are actually graphic elements and not searchable
  • Not accessible to the visually impaired
  • Protected from changes since it is a certified document


There are, however, a number of tables which make it easier to understand the main requirements. In particular, “Table 2: Stage 1 Meaningful Use Objectives and Associated Measures Sorted by Core and
Menu Set” offers a basic overview which is a good starting point.

I used a bit of Acrobat magic to extract Table 2 from the document and added a few checks to areas where I thought Adobe technology could fit in.


You can download the 944K document from the widget below or directly from this link.

You can click the Continue Reading link below to read more about my thoughts.


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New Personal Health Records Guide from Northern Illinois University

Cover Page of DocumentI recently received an email from Dr. Stasia Kahn announcing that a new white paper titled A Community View: How Personal Health Records Can Improve Patient Care and Outomes in Many Healthcare Settings, has been published and is available in an electronic and paper format.

Published by
the Northern Illinois University Regional Development Institute, this 163-page document includes a number of articles by doctors, nurses and healthcare technologists about Personal Health Records.

It’s a great read and discusses how practioners can work with electronic health records.

A PDF version is available for free download at the NIU Regional Development Institute website.

The white paper includes a broad range of topics, but there are quite a few mentions of PDF Healthcare.

Oh, let me mention this again . . . it’s free!

PDF Healthcare Sample Materials

PDF Healthcare LogoPDF is certainly a broad universe, but the Healthcare industry has some specific needs, especially in regards to data exchange.

PDF Healthcare, is a relatively new, Best Practices guide for using PDF in the Healthcare industry.

The PDF Healthcare guidance was authored by AIIM, the Association for Information and Image Management.

AIIM is a non-profit industry group focused on helping users to understand the challenges associated with managing documents, content, records, and business processes.

AIIM offers a number of very useful PDF Healthcare Resources on their site including:

  • FAQs
  • PDF Healthcare Implementation Guide
  • Sample Files, including XML-based PDF health data interchange forms
  • Presentations and Testimonials

. . . and many others.

Read on to learn about the many different resources available on the AIIM PDF Healthcare site.

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Materials for Acrobat for Healthcare eSeminar

Here are the slides which correspond to my “Acrobat for Healthcare Professionals eSeminar”.

All the links in the slide set are active in the downloadable PDF.

You can download the slides directly from the link below, or preview the slides in the window.

Acrobat_9_Healthcare.pdf (620K PDF)

Creating a Patient Information Form with Acrobat 9

Example Patient Information FormIn my last article, Patient Information Forms: Making Patients Happy, I discussed my frustration with the entire paper-based Patient Information Form Process.

The frustration is fresh on my mind since I ran into the same problem today trying to schedule an appointment for my son today. My son is in school at California State University and I have to fill in forms for him here in Illinois. The receptionist couldn’t even fax me the forms since " . . . the pages are dark and they don’t fax well."


In this introductory article you’ll learn how to:

  • Create a form
  • Add or edit fields
  • Add buttons so that patients can email the form to you
  • Save the form and enable it for your patients who use the free Adobe Reader software

Acrobat Forms Basics

Using Acrobat 9, you can create a form that is fillable for your patients who are using an earlier version of the free Adobe Reader. Adobe has distributed almost a billion copies of the free Adobe Reader, so it is very unlikely that your patient won’t be able to fill out the document.

Architecturally, the form fields "live" in a layer on top of the base document.

The basic steps to create a form are:

  1. Find your form
    • If the form is on paper, scan it in. You can do that directly in Acrobat
    • Locate your existing Word, Excel, etc. form file
  2. Use Acrobat to auto-recognize form fields on the document
  3. Add, delete fields as necessary
  4. Test the form

To make it easy to try this yourself, I’ve you can download the "flat" and completed forms below.

Before Form – No fields (14K PDF)
Form with Fillable Fields, Reader Enabled (193K PDF)

Note: This article is first step for offices who wish to migrate from paper/faxed forms to electronic form. In future articles, I’ll try to cover deeper form topics.


Read on to learn how to do it yourself!

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