Posts Tagged ‘medical informatics’

Dr. Morris Collen’s Last Book on Medical Informatics

posted on November 13, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Dr. Morris Collen at work in his apartment, 2013

Dr. Morris Collen at work in his apartment, 2013

The last published work of Morris F. Collen, MD, one of Kaiser Permanente’s original founding physicians, has been published almost exactly a year after his death at age 100. Dr. Collen – Morrie, as he was affectionately known to many of us – worked on the book virtually until the day he died on Sept. 27, 2014.

This second edition of A History of Medical Informatics in the United States, available in hardback and eBookwas not only a labor of Dr. Collen’s love for the field – is also a comprehensive updating of his original work, first published in 1995.

The Permanente Medical Group, which supported the book’s publication, and the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, honored Collen’s life and the colleagues who helped to complete this book during the American Medical Informatics Association symposium at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square this November 15.

On his 100th birthday, November 12, 2013, Collen reflected on the amazing changes in health care during his lifetime.

Now everybody has a personal health record…The technology has kept advancing. Our first computer took up a whole room. Now your smart phone has got everything that we had on the IBM 1440…You can go and pull up your Kaiser record! It’s fantastic! I can hardly believe it.

And he himself was a key figure in that advancement.

Cover, Morris Collen's second edition of The History of Medical Informatics in the United States, 2015

Collen, Morris F., and Ball, Marion J. 2015. The History of Medical Informatics in the United States. Springer Verlag.

This final edition offered a forum for health care professionals to laud Dr. Collen’s notable achievements in two forewords and a preface. These excerpts attest to the impact of Dr. Collen’s work.

Foreword by Charles Safran, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and recipient of the 2014 Morris F. Collen Award:

How often does a person envision a new medical discipline and then live to see this vision come into reality? He not only practiced his discipline, he established professional associations to promote it, and he mentored generations of practitioners. As a result of his pioneering efforts, we now have a field of clinical informatics. Information and communication technology is now used to improve health and healthcare in our hospitals, our clinicians’ offices, our places of work, our schools, and our homes. Physicians and nurses now train in clinical informatics, and physicians can be board certified in what has become a new subspecialty.

Foreword by Tracy Lieu, MD, director of the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, Calif. and Robert Pearl, MD, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group:

Dr. Collen developed his groundbreaking contributions to medical informatics amid the fertile environment of Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s first and most renowned integrated healthcare systems. As one of the founding partners of The Permanente Medical Group, now the largest medical group in the U.S., Morrie championed the principle that physicians should manage healthcare for both individual patients and large populations. He and the organization’s other founders weathered controversy during the 1940s and 1950s for their beliefs. Today, the concepts of prepayment for services, comprehensive electronic medical records, and an emphasis on preventive care have been widely embraced throughout the country.

This book reflects Morrie’s visionary leadership as well as the dedication of his many colleagues, especially his beloved editor, Marion Ball, EdD. At a time when the most advanced computers had less power than a watch today, he saw what was possible and the ultimate potential for big data to revolutionize medical care. In sharing ways we can harness information to take better care of patients in real-world settings, this work stands as a beacon on the path to better healthcare for modern society.

Preface by Marion J. Ball, EdD, and editor of this edition:

As he revised his History, Morrie restructured the book… reflecting the transformation medical informatics had undergone in the years since 1990. This new History provides an unrivaled repository of the literature – much of it in hard-to-locate proceedings and reports from professional and industry groups – that guided informatics as it matured. Yet it is much more than a repository. It sets forth Morrie’s last assessments of the field he pioneered and cultivated, and it is enriched by the contributions of his colleagues who reviewed his chapters and helped bring this volume to completion. Always collegial, Morrie himself would welcome these new perspectives on the work that engaged him so completely up to the end of his life.

To all those who look to the evolving field of informatics for tools and approaches to providing healthcare that is efficient, effective, evidence-based, and of the highest quality possible, this is Morrie’s gift.


Dr. Collen, we thank you for your gifts.

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Fire up your feat! Dr. Morris Collen turns 100.

posted on November 14, 2013
Morrie 100 candles-sm

Dr. Morris Collen blows out 100 candles. Photo by Lincoln Cushing.

On the auspicious date of November 12, 2013 (10/12/13 for those into numerology) esteemed Kaiser Permanente physician and pioneer of medical informatics turned 100 years old.  This event was celebrated at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco with The Collen Symposium: Looking Back to Look Forward. This one-day gathering hosted by the KP Division of Research drew scores of health care professionals, academics, researchers, and administrators to honor Dr. Collen’s contribution to the field.

Congratulations, Dr. Collen for your outstanding work.

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The Tokyo Accords, Kaiser Permanente and the genesis of the American Medical Informatics Association

posted on June 28, 2010

by Bryan Culp

You may have heard the news this spring that every Kaiser Permanente medical facility is now equipped with KP HealthConnect®. KP has the largest private sector electronic health record implementation in the world.

What may come as a surprise is that KP has been for half-century a leader in medical informatics –the theory, practice and “dynamo” behind today’s health e-connectivity.

Thirty years ago leading informaticians gathered in Tokyo, Japan, for the congress “MEDINFO 80.”  Medical informatics was a young discipline, and Tokyo was the site of the third congress. The two previous congresses convened in Stockholm (1974) and Toronto (1977).  KP physicians participated in all three.  Our founding physician, Dr. Sidney Garfield, delivered a paper at the first congress in Stockholm.

What made the Tokyo congress different?  It was the first of the congresses to be organized by the new International Medical Informatics Association (IHEA), the formation of this mostly-European-in-membership society from a parent organization (the International Federation for Information Processing) was a sign that the field of medical informatics was maturing.

Morris F. Collen, MD

Second, Tokyo was the first of the world congresses to have significant U.S. involvement.  Kaiser Permanente’s pioneer in medical informatics, Morris F. Collen, MD, was the program chair and Donald A. B. Lindberg, MD, then at the University of Missouri at Columbia was the editor of the proceedings.  Participants from the United States delivered 51 papers in Tokyo on subjects ranging from computer-based medical records to computer-aided decision support.

By way of background, in 1980 there were two medical informatics associations in the United States with less than 500 members each: the Society of Computer Medicine (SCM) and the Society for Advanced Medical Systems (SAMS).  Each convened separate annual meetings and each held board members in common.  And because there was some duplication of effort within them, there grew within each the conviction that the field in the U.S. would be served if the two societies merged.

At Tokyo, Dr. Marion Ball a director of Computer Systems at Temple University and president-elect of SCM, and Dr. Ben Williams, the president of SAMS, formed an ad hoc meeting of members and boards to discuss “common interests and possible common future activities.”  Dubbed the “Tokyo Accords” by Williams, in these meetings lay the genesis of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The enthusiasm generated in Tokyo resulted in the First Congress of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA Congress 82) held in San Francisco in 1982.  The congress was organized by Dr. Collen and was sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, with SAMS, SCM, and IHEA and other co-sponsors.  Concurrently in the months preceding and following the congress, the American Medical Informatics Association grew up with the expressed purpose “to advance the field of medical informatics in the United States.”

So when the Kaiser Permanente Thrive ad “Connected” airs on your local station, remember the medical informatics congresses that convened in Tokyo and San Francisco over thirty years ago, and the foresight of the KP leadership to nurture the emerging field of medical informatics.

Click on the arrow to watch “Connected.”

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50 Years Ago: The Birth of Computers in KP Medicine

posted on May 13, 2010

By Tom Debley

Dr. Sidney Garfield is seen in 1970 in an experimental health education center when he and his colleagues worked on his idea of "a building for health" built around the idea of central compuyting and health education.

Kaiser Permanente today is arguably the most advanced non-governmental health care organization in the country, and perhaps in the world, in the use of computers in medicine. A key historic reason for that leadership is its pioneering role. So this week we recognize the moment this work all began exactly 50 years ago.

The big lesson is that innovation did not occur through magic. It took vision, openness to new ideas, and dedicated work by thousands of people over the ensuing decades.

The result is that, at a time when electronic medical record systems have barely scratched the surface of American medicine, they are pervasive throughout Kaiser Permanente. All 8.6 million members have their own electronic medical records, which are also available throughout the organization’s 36 hospitals.

What’s more, the system’s Web-based member portal enables members to view most portions of their own medical record on line, send secure messages to their doctors, order prescriptions, make appointments, view lab results, and much more.

The critical moment when the futuristic vision of computer-enabled medical care came together with an organizational willingness to embrace new ideas came in May 1960. At a four-day leadership meeting, Sidney R. Garfield, our founding physician, was giving a report about hospital designs. Then, he shifted gears and announced, “I would like to use my remaining minutes on a more important, new concept. I want to throw this idea on the table for your consideration. Please accept it in the spirit it is given. It is a controversial idea, but please keep an open mind.”

It was a whopper.

“Let us conceive a building for health—designed, streamlined and geared to serve our healthy members. This health institute could conceivably function in this fashion. Each new health plan member would automatically and periodically be called in for service. On his first visit, a history would be taken and fed in a computer.

“A duplicate of this history would be sent to his service area. On each periodic visit or service visit, further data would be taken . . . and fed into this record. This would not only develop records never before available, but might do so at a great savings in time of physicians.”

The late Dr. John G. Smillie, who was at the meeting, commented on the discussion at the time that physicians who were there felt Garfield’s proposal “had exciting merit,” adding they said “it should be studied from many angles, and designed and redesigned… (and) should be made flexible to meet new developments…”

Dr. Morris F. Collen is seen in a photo shot for the cover of Modern Medicine magazine in 1968.

Over the next decade, the 1960s, research and testing headed by Garfield’s colleague, Morris F. Collen, MD, propelled Kaiser Permanente into a leadership role in the emerging field of medical informatics.

Within that decade, more than one million patients had early versions of electronic medical records and became more involved in their own care because of the new levels of knowledge available to them and their doctors.

“It was the first transformational aspect of looking at how the system of caring for patients could change,” recalls Dr. Marion J. Ball, author of “Consumer Informatics: Applications and Strategies in Cyber Health Care” and adjunct professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

Dr. Collen recognized in the early years of his work that the computer would be an incredibly important tool in modern medicine, declaring in 1966: “The computer will probably have the greatest impact on medical science since the invention of the microscope.”

Dr. Cecil C. Cutting, the first executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, challenged all physicians in 1965 to embrace the future in a talk to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“. . . The great challenge,” he said, “will be the willingness of traditional medicine to accept these new concepts and reorganize to provide these services. The future . . . in medicine may well rest on the open-mindedness of the doc¬tors of the country to anticipate inevitable trends and lead the way. We earnestly hope they will.”

That Kaiser Permanente was changing from a pioneer to a continuing leader in health information technology (IT) was well established by 1968, when its annual report stated: “The computer cannot replace the physician, but it can keep essential data moving smoothly from laboratory to nurses’ station, from X-ray department to the patient’s chart, and from all areas of the medical center to the physician himself.”

This early embrace of health IT – and persistent work in the half century since – explains why, as I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, 12 of the first 13 American hospitals to be rewarded by HIMSS, the leading health IT association, for having the highest level of e-connectivity were Kaiser Permanente hospitals. This year, 24 Kaiser Permanente hospitals have achieved that status, with more on the way. Meanwhile, less than 1 percent of America’s hospitals are at this stage.

What was said of Dr. Garfield two decades ago is just as true today: “Sidney Garfield…had a way of always operating on the cutting edge of the future.”

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