JMIR Medical Informatics

Clinical informatics, decision support for health professionals, electronic health records, and ehealth infrastructures.


The paper “Bridging Organizational Divides in Health Care: An Ecological View of Health Information Exchange” published in the first issue of the new JMIR Medical Informatics journal, is a finalist for the Diana Forsythe Award from the People and Organizational Issues Working Group of AMIA. The award "honors a paper that best exemplifies the spirit and scholarship of Diana Forsythe’s work at the intersection of informatics and social sciences.” The award will be given at the closing session for AMIA in November 2014. "Just being a finalist is a huge honor because it is a highly competitive pool of papers.", says lead author Kim Unertl, Assistant Professor at the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University. "The online format of JMIR Medical Informatics played a huge role in the final quality of this paper, because making the content fit within the word limits of many print journals would have been challenging and would have required fundamentally altering the direction and content of the paper.". JMIR Medical Informatics is a new sister journal of JMIR, the worlds' leading ehealth journal.

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Journal Description

JMIR Medical Informatics (JMI, ISSN 2291-9694) focusses on clinical informatics, big data in health and health care, decision support for health professionals, electronic health records, and ehealth infrastructures.

Published by JMIR Publications, publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), the leading eHealth/mHealth journal (Impact Factor 2013: 4.7), JMIR Med Inform has a different scope (emphasizing more on applications for clinicians and health professionals rather than consumers/citizens, which is the focus of JMIR), publishes even faster, and also allows papers which are more technical or more formative than what would be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

JMIR Medical Informatics journal features a rapid and thorough peer-review process, professional copyediting, professional production of PDF, XHTML, and XML proofs (ready for deposit in PubMed Central/PubMed), and an ipad App (in prep.).

JMIR Medical Informatics adheres to the same quality standards as JMIR and all articles published here are also cross-listed in the Table of Contents of JMIR, the worlds' leading medical journal in health sciences / health services research and health informatics (


Recent Articles:

  • An effective search engine to find physicians’ information is a critical but often lacking function of a healthcare provider’s website. The Fuzzy-Match Search Engine for Physician Directories overcomes the limitations faced by search engines.

    A Fuzzy-Match Search Engine for Physician Directories


    Background: A search engine to find physicians’ information is a basic but crucial function of a health care provider’s website. Inefficient search engines, which return no results or incorrect results, can lead to patient frustration and potential customer loss. A search engine that can handle misspellings and spelling variations of names is needed, as the United States (US) has culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse names. Objective: The Marshfield Clinic website provides a search engine for users to search for physicians’ names. The current search engine provides an auto-completion function, but it requires an exact match. We observed that 26% of all searches yielded no results. The goal was to design a fuzzy-match algorithm to aid users in finding physicians easier and faster. Methods: Instead of an exact match search, we used a fuzzy algorithm to find similar matches for searched terms. In the algorithm, we solved three types of search engine failures: “Typographic”, “Phonetic spelling variation”, and “Nickname”. To solve these mismatches, we used a customized Levenshtein distance calculation that incorporated Soundex coding and a lookup table of nicknames derived from US census data. Results: Using the “Challenge Data Set of Marshfield Physician Names,” we evaluated the accuracy of fuzzy-match engine–top ten (90%) and compared it with exact match (0%), Soundex (24%), Levenshtein distance (59%), and fuzzy-match engine–top one (71%). Conclusions: We designed, created a reference implementation, and evaluated a fuzzy-match search engine for physician directories. The open-source code is available at the codeplex website and a reference implementation is available for demonstration at the datamarsh website.
  • Location-based visualization of HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. The health-related data and the time series graph are displayed by clicking on the map of the country.

    Design and Development of a Linked Open Data-Based Health Information Representation and Visualization System: Potentials and Preliminary Evaluation


    Background: Healthcare organizations around the world are challenged by pressures to reduce cost, improve coordination and outcome, and provide more with less. This requires effective planning and evidence-based practice by generating important information from available data. Thus, flexible and user-friendly ways to represent, query, and visualize health data becomes increasingly important. International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) regularly publish vital data on priority health topics that can be utilized for public health policy and health service development. However, the data in most portals is displayed in either Excel or PDF formats, which makes information discovery and reuse difficult. Linked Open Data (LOD)—a new Semantic Web set of best practice of standards to publish and link heterogeneous data—can be applied to the representation and management of public level health data to alleviate such challenges. However, the technologies behind building LOD systems and their effectiveness for health data are yet to be assessed. Objective: The objective of this study is to evaluate whether Linked Data technologies are potential options for health information representation, visualization, and retrieval systems development and to identify the available tools and methodologies to build Linked Data-based health information systems. Methods: We used the Resource Description Framework (RDF) for data representation, Fuseki triple store for data storage, and Sgvizler for information visualization. Additionally, we integrated SPARQL query interface for interacting with the data. We primarily use the WHO health observatory dataset to test the system. All the data were represented using RDF and interlinked with other related datasets on the Web of Data using Silk—a link discovery framework for Web of Data. A preliminary usability assessment was conducted following the System Usability Scale (SUS) method. Results: We developed an LOD-based health information representation, querying, and visualization system by using Linked Data tools. We imported more than 20,000 HIV-related data elements on mortality, prevalence, incidence, and related variables, which are freely available from the WHO global health observatory database. Additionally, we automatically linked 5312 data elements from DBpedia, Bio2RDF, and LinkedCT using the Silk framework. The system users can retrieve and visualize health information according to their interests. For users who are not familiar with SPARQL queries, we integrated a Linked Data search engine interface to search and browse the data. We used the system to represent and store the data, facilitating flexible queries and different kinds of visualizations. The preliminary user evaluation score by public health data managers and users was 82 on the SUS usability measurement scale. The need to write queries in the interface was the main reported difficulty of LOD-based systems to the end user. Conclusions: The system introduced in this article shows that current LOD technologies are a promising alternative to represent heterogeneous health data in a flexible and reusable manner so that they can serve intelligent queries, and ultimately support decision-making. However, the development of advanced text-based search engines is necessary to increase its usability especially for nontechnical users. Further research with large datasets is recommended in the future to unfold the potential of Linked Data and Semantic Web for future health information systems development.
  • (cc) Burgos et al. CC-BY-SA 2.0, please cite as (

    Clinical Decision Support System to Enhance Quality Control of Spirometry Using Information and Communication Technologies


    Background: We recently demonstrated that quality of spirometry in primary care could markedly improve with remote offline support from specialized professionals. It is hypothesized that implementation of automatic online assessment of quality of spirometry using information and communication technologies may significantly enhance the potential for extensive deployment of a high quality spirometry program in integrated care settings. Objective: The objective of the study was to elaborate and validate a Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) for automatic online quality assessment of spirometry. Methods: The CDSS was done through a three step process including: (1) identification of optimal sampling frequency; (2) iterations to build-up an initial version using the 24 standard spirometry curves recommended by the American Thoracic Society; and (3) iterations to refine the CDSS using 270 curves from 90 patients. In each of these steps the results were checked against one expert. Finally, 778 spirometry curves from 291 patients were analyzed for validation purposes. Results: The CDSS generated appropriate online classification and certification in 685/778 (88.1%) of spirometry testing, with 96% sensitivity and 95% specificity. Conclusions: Consequently, only 93/778 (11.9%) of spirometry testing required offline remote classification by an expert, indicating a potential positive role of the CDSS in the deployment of a high quality spirometry program in an integrated care setting.
  • Clinical Data Miner (CDM)'s data collection user interface. The possibility to include pictograms in case report forms is particularly interesting for variables obtained from imaging modalities.

    Clinical Data Miner: An Electronic Case Report Form System With Integrated Data Preprocessing and Machine-Learning Libraries Supporting Clinical Diagnostic...


    Background: Using machine-learning techniques, clinical diagnostic model research extracts diagnostic models from patient data. Traditionally, patient data are often collected using electronic Case Report Form (eCRF) systems, while mathematical software is used for analyzing these data using machine-learning techniques. Due to the lack of integration between eCRF systems and mathematical software, extracting diagnostic models is a complex, error-prone process. Moreover, due to the complexity of this process, it is usually only performed once, after a predetermined number of data points have been collected, without insight into the predictive performance of the resulting models. Objective: The objective of the study of Clinical Data Miner (CDM) software framework is to offer an eCRF system with integrated data preprocessing and machine-learning libraries, improving efficiency of the clinical diagnostic model research workflow, and to enable optimization of patient inclusion numbers through study performance monitoring. Methods: The CDM software framework was developed using a test-driven development (TDD) approach, to ensure high software quality. Architecturally, CDM’s design is split over a number of modules, to ensure future extendability. Results: The TDD approach has enabled us to deliver high software quality. CDM’s eCRF Web interface is in active use by the studies of the International Endometrial Tumor Analysis consortium, with over 4000 enrolled patients, and more studies planned. Additionally, a derived user interface has been used in six separate interrater agreement studies. CDM's integrated data preprocessing and machine-learning libraries simplify some otherwise manual and error-prone steps in the clinical diagnostic model research workflow. Furthermore, CDM's libraries provide study coordinators with a method to monitor a study's predictive performance as patient inclusions increase. Conclusions: To our knowledge, CDM is the only eCRF system integrating data preprocessing and machine-learning libraries. This integration improves the efficiency of the clinical diagnostic model research workflow. Moreover, by simplifying the generation of learning curves, CDM enables study coordinators to assess more accurately when data collection can be terminated, resulting in better models or lower patient recruitment costs.
  • Top diseases related to adenocarcinoma of lung by onGrid (δ = 1.1).

    Enabling Online Studies of Conceptual Relationships Between Medical Terms: Developing an Efficient Web Platform


    Background: The Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) contains many important ontologies in which terms are connected by semantic relations. For many studies on the relationships between biomedical concepts, the use of transitively associated information from ontologies and the UMLS has been shown to be effective. Although there are a few tools and methods available for extracting transitive relationships from the UMLS, they usually have major restrictions on the length of transitive relations or on the number of data sources. Objective: Our goal was to design an efficient online platform that enables efficient studies on the conceptual relationships between any medical terms. Methods: To overcome the restrictions of available methods and to facilitate studies on the conceptual relationships between medical terms, we developed a Web platform, onGrid, that supports efficient transitive queries and conceptual relationship studies using the UMLS. This framework uses the latest technique in converting natural language queries into UMLS concepts, performs efficient transitive queries, and visualizes the result paths. It also dynamically builds a relationship matrix for two sets of input biomedical terms. We are thus able to perform effective studies on conceptual relationships between medical terms based on their relationship matrix. Results: The advantage of onGrid is that it can be applied to study any two sets of biomedical concept relations and the relations within one set of biomedical concepts. We use onGrid to study the disease-disease relationships in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM). By crossvalidating our results with an external database, the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD), we demonstrated that onGrid is effective for the study of conceptual relationships between medical terms. Conclusions: onGrid is an efficient tool for querying the UMLS for transitive relations, studying the relationship between medical terms, and generating hypotheses.
  • url:

license: CC - Creative Commons - url:

    Towards Social Radiology as an Information Infrastructure: Reconciling the Local With the Global


    The current widespread use of medical images and imaging procedures in clinical practice and patient diagnosis has brought about an increase in the demand for sharing medical imaging studies among health professionals in an easy and effective manner. This article reveals the existence of a polarization between the local and global demands for radiology practice. While there are no major barriers for sharing such studies, when access is made from a (local) picture archive and communication system (PACS) within the domain of a healthcare organization, there are a number of impediments for sharing studies among health professionals on a global scale. Social radiology as an information infrastructure involves the notion of a shared infrastructure as a public good, affording a social space where people, organizations and technical components may spontaneously form associations in order to share clinical information linked to patient care and radiology practice. This article shows however, that such polarization establishes a tension between local and global demands, which hinders the emergence of social radiology as an information infrastructure. Based on an analysis of the social space for radiology practice, the present article has observed that this tension persists due to the inertia of a locally installed base in radiology departments, for which common teleradiology models are not truly capable of reorganizing as a global social space for radiology practice. Reconciling the local with the global signifies integrating PACS and teleradiology into an evolving, secure, heterogeneous, shared, open information infrastructure where the conceptual boundaries between (local) PACS and (global) teleradiology are transparent, signaling the emergence of social radiology as an information infrastructure.
  • (cc) Kruse et al. CC-BY-SA-2.0, please cite as (

    Barriers Over Time to Full Implementation of Health Information Exchange in the United States


    Background: Although health information exchanges (HIE) have existed since their introduction by President Bush in his 2004 State of the Union Address, and despite monetary incentives earmarked in 2009 by the health information technology for economic and clinical health (HITECH) Act, adoption of HIE has been sparse in the United States. Research has been conducted to explore the concept of HIE and its benefit to patients, but viable business plans for their existence are rare, and so far, no research has been conducted on the dynamic nature of barriers over time. Objective: The aim of this study is to map the barriers mentioned in the literature to illustrate the effect, if any, of barriers discussed with respect to the HITECH Act from 2009 to the early months of 2014. Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review from CINAHL, PubMed, and Google Scholar. The search criteria primarily focused on studies. Each article was read by at least two of the authors, and a final set was established for evaluation (n=28). Results: The 28 articles identified 16 barriers. Cost and efficiency/workflow were identified 15% and 13% of all instances of barriers mentioned in literature, respectively. The years 2010 and 2011 were the most plentiful years when barriers were discussed, with 75% and 69% of all barriers listed, respectively. Conclusions: The frequency of barriers mentioned in literature demonstrates the mindfulness of users, developers, and both local and national government. The broad conclusion is that public policy masks the effects of some barriers, while revealing others. However, a deleterious effect can be inferred when the public funds are exhausted. Public policy will need to lever incentives to overcome many of the barriers such as cost and impediments to competition. Process improvement managers need to optimize the efficiency of current practices at the point of care. Developers will need to work with users to ensure tools that use HIE resources work into existing workflows.
  • By stockimages, published on 19 January 2014, Stock Photo - image ID: 100228011;

    Return on Investment in Electronic Health Records in Primary Care Practices: A Mixed-Methods Study


    Background: The use of electronic health records (EHR) in clinical settings is considered pivotal to a patient-centered health care delivery system. However, uncertainty in cost recovery from EHR investments remains a significant concern in primary care practices. Objective: Guided by the question of “When implemented in primary care practices, what will be the return on investment (ROI) from an EHR implementation?”, the objectives of this study are two-fold: (1) to assess ROI from EHR in primary care practices and (2) to identify principal factors affecting the realization of positive ROI from EHR. We used a break-even point, that is, the time required to achieve cost recovery from an EHR investment, as an ROI indicator of an EHR investment. Methods: Given the complexity exhibited by most EHR implementation projects, this study adopted a retrospective mixed-method research approach, particularly a multiphase study design approach. For this study, data were collected from community-based primary care clinics using EHR systems. Results: We collected data from 17 primary care clinics using EHR systems. Our data show that the sampled primary care clinics recovered their EHR investments within an average period of 10 months (95% CI 6.2-17.4 months), seeing more patients with an average increase of 27% in the active-patients-to-clinician-FTE (full time equivalent) ratio and an average increase of 10% in the active-patients-to-clinical-support-staff-FTE ratio after an EHR implementation. Our analysis suggests, with a 95% confidence level, that the increase in the number of active patients (P=.006), the increase in the active-patients-to-clinician-FTE ratio (P<.001), and the increase in the clinic net revenue (P<.001) are positively associated with the EHR implementation, likely contributing substantially to an average break-even point of 10 months. Conclusions: We found that primary care clinics can realize a positive ROI with EHR. Our analysis of the variances in the time required to achieve cost recovery from EHR investments suggests that a positive ROI does not appear automatically upon implementing an EHR and that a clinic’s ability to leverage EHR for process changes seems to play a role. Policies that provide support to help primary care practices successfully make EHR-enabled changes, such as support of clinic workflow optimization with an EHR system, could facilitate the realization of positive ROI from EHR in primary care practices.
  • Screenshot from Doctor Direct Scheduling Software.

    Adoption, Use, and Impact of E-Booking in Private Medical Practices: Mixed-Methods Evaluation of a Two-Year Showcase Project in Canada


    Background: Managing appointments in private medical practices and ambulatory care settings is a complex process. Various strategies to reduce missed appointments can be implemented. E-booking systems, which allow patients to schedule and manage medical appointments online, represents such a strategy. To better support clinicians seeking to offer an e-booking service to their patients, health authorities in Canada recently invested in a showcase project involving six private medical clinics. Objective: The objectives pursued in this study were threefold: (1) to measure adoption and use of the e-booking system in each of the clinics over a 2-year period, (2) to assess patients’ perceptions regarding the characteristics and benefits of using the system, and (3) to measure the impact of the e-booking system on the number of missed appointments in each clinic. Methods: A mixed-methods approach was adopted in this study. We first extracted and analyzed raw data from the e-booking system deployed in each of the medical practices to monitor adoption and use of the system over time and to assess the impact of the system on the number of missed appointments. Second, we conducted a Web-based survey of patients’ perceptions in the spring of 2013. Results: The patients and physicians targeted by this showcase project showed a growing interest in the e-booking system as the number of users, time slots made available by physicians, and online appointments grew steadily over time. The great majority of patients said that they appreciated the system mainly because of the benefits they derived from it, namely, scheduling flexibility, time savings, and automated reminders that prevented forgotten appointments. Importantly, our findings suggest that the system’s automated reminders help significantly reduce the number of missed appointments. Conclusions: E-booking systems seem to represent a win-win solution for patients and physicians in private medical practices. We encourage researchers to replicate and extend our work in other primary care settings in order to test the generalizability of our findings.
  • Cropped Multimedia Appendix 2.

    Use of the Satisfaction With Amplification in Daily Life Questionnaire to Assess Patient Satisfaction Following Remote Hearing Aid Adjustments (Telefitting)


    Background: Hearing loss can affect approximately 15% of the pediatric population and up to 40% of the adult population. The gold standard of treatment for hearing loss is amplification of hearing thresholds by means of a hearing aid instrument. A hearing aid is an electronic device equipped with a topology of only three major components of aggregate cost. The gold standard of hearing aid fittings is face-to-face appointments in hearing aid centers, clinics, or hospitals. Telefitting encompasses the programming and adjustments of hearing aid settings remotely. Fitting hearing aids remotely is a relatively simple procedure, using minimal computer hardware and Internet access. Objective: This project aimed to examine the feasibility and outcomes of remote hearing aid adjustments (telefitting) by assessing patient satisfaction via the Portuguese version of the Satisfaction With Amplification in Daily Life (SADL) questionnaire. Methods: The Brazilian Portuguese version of the SADL was used in this experimental research design. Participants were randomly selected through the Rehabilitation Clinical (Espaco Reouvir) of the Otorhinolaryngology Department Medical School University of Sao Paulo. Of the 8 participants in the study, 5 were female and 3 were male, with a mean age of 71.5 years. The design consisted of two face-to-face sessions performed within 15 working days of each other. The remote assistance took place 15 days later. Results: The average scores from this study are above the mean scores from the original SADL normative data. These indicate a high level of satisfaction in participants who were fitted remotely. Conclusions: The use of an evaluation questionnaire is a simple yet effective method to objectively assess the success of a remote fitting. Questionnaire outcomes can help hearing stakeholders improve the National Policy on Hearing Health Care in Brazil. The results of this project indicated that patient satisfaction levels of those fitted remotely were comparable to those fitted in the conventional manner, that is, face-to-face.
  • Data-driven learning system panel. Photo credit: Andrew Zimolzak.

    Making Big Data Useful for Health Care: A Summary of the Inaugural MIT Critical Data Conference


    With growing concerns that big data will only augment the problem of unreliable research, the Laboratory of Computational Physiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology organized the Critical Data Conference in January 2014. Thought leaders from academia, government, and industry across disciplines—including clinical medicine, computer science, public health, informatics, biomedical research, health technology, statistics, and epidemiology—gathered and discussed the pitfalls and challenges of big data in health care. The key message from the conference is that the value of large amounts of data hinges on the ability of researchers to share data, methodologies, and findings in an open setting. If empirical value is to be from the analysis of retrospective data, groups must continuously work together on similar problems to create more effective peer review. This will lead to improvement in methodology and quality, with each iteration of analysis resulting in more reliability.
  • An infrastructure design for a genomic variation integrated electronic health record. Created by Timur Beyan.

    Incorporation of Personal Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Data into a National Level Electronic Health Record for Disease Risk Assessment, Part 3: An...


    Background: A personalized medicine approach provides opportunities for predictive and preventive medicine. Using genomic, clinical, environmental, and behavioral data, the tracking and management of individual wellness is possible. A prolific way to carry this personalized approach into routine practices can be accomplished by integrating clinical interpretations of genomic variations into electronic medical records (EMRs)/electronic health records (EHRs). Today, various central EHR infrastructures have been constituted in many countries of the world, including Turkey. Objective: As an initial attempt to develop a sophisticated infrastructure, we have concentrated on incorporating the personal single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data into the National Health Information System of Turkey (NHIS-T) for disease risk assessment, and evaluated the performance of various predictive models for prostate cancer cases. We present our work as a three part miniseries: (1) an overview of requirements, (2) the incorporation of SNP data into the NHIS-T, and (3) an evaluation of SNP data incorporated into the NHIS-T for prostate cancer. Methods: In the third article of this miniseries, we have evaluated the proposed complementary capabilities (ie, knowledge base and end-user application) with real data. Before the evaluation phase, clinicogenomic associations about increased prostate cancer risk were extracted from knowledge sources, and published predictive genomic models assessing individual prostate cancer risk were collected. To evaluate complementary capabilities, we also gathered personal SNP data of four prostate cancer cases and fifteen controls. Using these data files, we compared various independent and model-based, prostate cancer risk assessment approaches. Results: Through the extraction and selection processes of SNP-prostate cancer risk associations, we collected 209 independent associations for increased risk of prostate cancer from the studied knowledge sources. Also, we gathered six cumulative models and two probabilistic models. Cumulative models and assessment of independent associations did not have impressive results. There was one of the probabilistic, model-based interpretation that was successful compared to the others. In envirobehavioral and clinical evaluations, we found that some of the comorbidities, especially, would be useful to evaluate disease risk. Even though we had a very limited dataset, a comparison of performances of different disease models and their implementation with real data as use case scenarios helped us to gain deeper insight into the proposed architecture. Conclusions: In order to benefit from genomic variation data, existing EHR/EMR systems must be constructed with the capability of tracking and monitoring all aspects of personal health status (genomic, clinical, environmental, etc) in 24/7 situations, and also with the capability of suggesting evidence-based recommendations. A national-level, accredited knowledge base is a top requirement for improved end-user systems interpreting these parameters. Finally, categorization using similar, individual characteristics (SNP patterns, exposure history, etc) may be an effective way to predict disease risks, but this approach needs to be concretized and supported with new studies.

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