Medication risks to be focus of pioneering Ottawa summit

    Canadian-led event brings together world-first, multi-disciplinary panel
    to address patient safety

    OTTAWA, Jan. 10 /CNW/ - A Canadian-led, international initiative to
improve patient safety, focusing on health risks from taking prescribed
medications, will be launched at an Ottawa workshop next month.
    Experts from around the world will seek technical solutions to patient
safety risks, which include illness and deaths from adverse drug reactions, at
an upcoming Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Workshop
on Adverse Response Monitoring (WARM) to be held on February 21 - 22, 2008.
    The workshop, organized by the Ottawa Section of the IEEE, the world's
leading professional association for the advancement of technology, will
feature representatives of the Ottawa Heart Institute, Johns Hopkins Applied
Physics Laboratories, the University of Toronto, and European Federation of
Medical Informatics, among others.
    Patient safety is a serious global health issue. According to World
Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 10% of patients are harmed while
receiving top hospital care. Recognizing the magnitude of the problem, the
member states of the WHO supported a 2002 World Health Assembly resolution on
patient safety.
    "No health care knowledge is more important than how to prevent harm to
patients. However, action to reduce known risks has often been far too slow",
said Sir Liam Donaldson, M.D., Chair of the WHO World Alliance for Patient
    The workshop will for the first time bring together a multi-disciplinary
team from diverse fields including medicine, physics, engineering,
informatics, and measurement science - along with corporate leaders and
government policymakers - to grapple with this problem. The goal is to find
solutions for detecting and reporting adverse events objectively, promptly and
relevantly - case by case, regardless of location - to help optimize the
efficacy of medication.
    "Engineering shares with medicine a commitment to improve quality of life
while putting safety first, and that's why the IEEE is organizing this
workshop. On this common ground, we will seek to work out the differences and
identify the cross-cutting technologies that can bridge the gap between
physical and physiological safety systems", said Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, IEEE
Ottawa Section Chair.
    Other high risk industries, such as aviation, have a much better safety
record than health care. "Your risk of being harmed in an aircraft is
1/1,000,000 versus 1/300 in a hospital. Nobody finds this situation acceptable
so we need to find the fastest path to making healing as safe as flying", said
Dr. Tofy Mussivand, Chair and Director of Cardiovascular Devices Division,
University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
    Most medications today are administered by patients at home, without
supervision, and in the absence of systems to manage and track adverse drug
responses. Many patients experience complications from prescribed drugs -
often severe - adding to the challenges of managing chronic conditions like
heart disease and diabetes. This has prompted recent legislation in the United
States that requires drug companies to monitor patient reaction to new
medications for seven years after approval. The WARM workshop responds to the
need to find objective methods of measuring patient responses to medications
and to develop standards for adverse response measurement and analysis.
    "Despite the well-known risks associated with using prescription drugs,
medication errors and adverse reactions are still poorly understood and
recorded. Given these risks, we need to develop objective methods for
monitoring an individual's response to treatment", said George Mihalas,
President of the European Federation of Medical Informatics.
    "Is this treatment working for me? That is the question in health care.
Without a precise answer to this question, knowing what's going on with a
patient imposes unbearable costs of cognition, communication, coordination,
and capability. Personal health monitoring systems are needed to help answer
this question efficiently and therefore enable the provision of safe,
high-quality care for all", said Dr. Radu Leca, President of Biosign
Technologies Inc.
    Reflecting the growing recognition of this need, the workshop has
attracted sponsorships from three technology companies: IBM, a pioneer in
healthcare information technology; TELUS, a leader in health information
delivery; and Emergis, a leading developer of electronic medical record
    "At Emergis we are focused on improving patient care and the safety of
our health system through the use of information technology. We are very
pleased to be participating in this important event which will focus on
patient safety risks related to medications and medication administration - an
area where information technology must play a larger role in order to advance
our health care system to the next level", said Mark Groper, Executive
Vice-President, Health-Public Sector, at Emergis.
    Technologies to be demonstrated at WARM include a telematic health
information system for monitoring responses to frequently prescribed drugs.
The system, developed by Biosign, leverages established technologies to assess
a patient's response to treatment and the need to adjust treatment
    "IBM supports and applauds this initiative, which addresses challenging
questions in the quest for high-quality healthcare. Ensuring that people are
not harmed by medication is not an option, but the first condition of quality
care. That's why we are working closely with TELUS and Biosign to offer a
prescription for action", said Sal Causi, IBM Healthcare's Business
Development Executive.
    "TELUS is pleased to support this IEEE workshop's goal of improving
patient safety through the use of technology. This is an extension of our
ongoing collaboration with IBM and Biosign. The strategy to commoditize self
care and remote monitoring is critical as we move toward next-generation
healthcare", said Ibrahim Gedeon, TELUS' Chief Technology Officer.
    The workshop seeks presentations and demonstrations of such solutions
that balance collaborative innovation with proven global best practices toward
a new, safer standard of care.
    More information is available at


    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is a
non-profit, technical professional association of more than 385,000 members
worldwide. Through its members, the IEEE is a leading authority in technical
areas ranging from computer engineering, biomedical technology and
telecommunications, to electric power, aerospace and consumer electronics,
among others. Through its technical publishing, conferences and
consensus-based standards activities, the IEEE produces 30 percent of the
world's published literature in electrical engineering, computers and control
technology, holds annually more than 300 major conferences and has nearly 900
active standards with 700 under development. The Ottawa Section, which has
been cited four years in a row as the worldwide leading IEEE section for the
outstanding activities organized by its volunteers, is dedicated to
strengthening the role of engineers in community development.


    Biosign develops technologies, products and initiatives to address
critical problems in global health care. The company is committed to becoming
the "world's health monitor" with a robust, integrated and portable system
that provides valuable information for all parties concerned through a wide
range of self-care and patient-centric services. Biosign's advanced technology
and continued innovation serve the company's mission to make health care safe,
simple, and sensible.


    A pioneer in healthcare information technology, IBM remains at the
forefront of improving how healthcare organizations deliver efficient, high
quality care. IBM, in combination with its global network of business partners
and strategic alliances, delivers powerful technology and comprehensive
services that help healthcare organizations achieve success.


    TELUS addresses challenges in providing sustainable and equitable quality
care within a complex system with multiple distributed stakeholders. TELUS
solutions enable the delivery of health information to the point of care,
while paying particular attention to safeguarding the security and privacy of
personal and medical information.


    Emergis is an IT leader in Canada that focuses on the health and
financial services sectors. The "Oacis" Electronic Medical Record has the
proven technology to enable delivery of first class, comprehensive care from
multiple points-of-service across an enterprise, helping health professionals
cost effectively improve patient safety. Its flawless integration of data,
from existing systems using scalable, expandable technology, increases
productivity and delivers better health care.

For further information:

For further information: Voicu Groza, IEEE WARM 2008 Steering Committee,
Phone: (613) 562-5800 extension 2159, Email:; Media
Inquiries: Don Hogarth, Hogarth Communications, Phone: (416) 565-8920, Email:

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