Chronic and terminally ill patients are disproportionately affected by medical errors. In addition, the elderly suffer more preventable adverse events than younger patients. Targeting system wide 'error-reducing' reforms to vulnerable populations can significantly reduce the incidence and prevalence of human error in medical practice. Recent developments in health informatics, particularly the application of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques such as data mining, neural networks, and case-based reasoning (CBR), presents tremendous opportunities for mitigating error in disease diagnosis and patient management. Additionally, the ubiquity of the Internet creates the possibility of an almost ideal network for the dissemination of medical information. We explore the capacity and limitations of web-based palliative information systems (IS) to transform the delivery of care, streamline processes and improve the efficiency and appropriateness of medical treatment. As a result, medical error(s) that occur with patients dealing with severe, chronic illness and the frail elderly can be reduced. The palliative model grew out of the need for pain relief and comfort measures for patients diagnosed with cancer. Applied definitions of palliative care extend this convention, but there is no widely accepted definition. This research will discuss the development life cycle of two palliative information systems: the CONFER QOLP management information system (MIS), currently used by a community-based palliative care program in Brooklyn, New York, and the CAREN case-based reasoning prototype. CONFER is a web platform based on the idea of 'eCare'. CONFER uses XML (extensible mark-up language), a W3C-endorced standard mark up to define systems data. The second system, CAREN, is a CBR prototype designed for palliative care patients in the cancer trajectory. CBR is a technique, which tries to exploit the similarities of two situations and match decision-making to the best-known precedent cases. The prototype uses the opensource CASPIAN shell developed by the University of Aberystwyth, Wales and is available by anonymous FTP. We will discuss and analyze the preliminary results we have obtained using this CBR tool. Our research suggests that automated information systems can be used to improve the quality of care at the end of life and disseminate expert level 'know how' to palliative care clinicians. We will present how our CBR prototype can be successfully deployed, capable of securely transferring information using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and using a JAVA CBR engine. © 2005 The authors. All rights reserved.
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