Developing a system for bringing medical knowledge to a consumer level is a current challenge in health informatics today. Existing systems such as expert systems are computerized decision support systems that implement artificial intelligence to help provide advice when treating patients.

Past systems have been shown to benefit people working in medicine; medical students, medical professionals, providers, etc. The group of people it has been shown to be most valuable are to the medical students; those with the least experience and previous clinical knowledge. These existing systems can then be adapted to consumers based on this study.

The reason why decision support systems are not being used as widely as they should be is because there is reluctance from medical professionals and low priority assigned to AI in healthcare systems. However, setbacks from using expert systems include consumers having a hard time understanding how to use the technology, and no research has been done to show how effective these systems on the consumer level.

These systems not only provide decision-based support, but can also be used to help triage patients. This isn’t meant to replace medical professionals, but to be of aid in the process. This also allows for patients to be aware of certain drug interactions or health risks, and help the patient’s decision on whether or not it is appropriate to see a doctor.  

HouseCall, for example, is a consumer health informatics system based off of an existing physician knowledge base, called Iliad. The call for patient information to be more easily accessible is being addressed with this application; studies have shown that patients like interacting with the application and enjoy participating in trying to solve their medical problems.

Dr. Lisa Vizer, CHiP core faculty members and Assistant Research Professor in the School of Medicine, is doing research related to adapting, designing, and developing technology so that  patients can monitor their own health. By bringing medical knowledge to a consumer level, technologies can quickly pick up when treatment is becoming ineffective. Dr. Vizer has worked on a research project that focused on the usability of a patient education and motivation tool using heuristic evaluation. She has developed applications that provide educational content about a patient’s condition in order to identify problems more efficiently.