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Health Informatics

This panel presentation is part of the Science, Medicine and Technology in Culture Coffee Hour Series. Michael Green, Associate Professor of Humanities, Penn State University College of Medicine Lynette Kvasny, Assistant Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University Roxanne Parrott, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State University Anthony Robinson, Graduate Student, Geography, Penn State University
When Dec 16, 2004
from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Where 102 Weaver Building
Contact Name
Contact Phone 814-863-5911
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SMTC Coffee Hour: 
Health Informatics

December 16, 2004; 2:00 p.m.
102 Weaver Building

Moderator: Eileen Trauth, Professor of Information Sciences and Technology

Information technology has given us enormous opportunities to capture, analyze and transmit information. In the field of health care these opportunities offer us both great promise and great challenges. In particular, IT raises important ethical issues, not just about the potential for such information gathering and analysis, but also in terms of the way the information is transmitted, and how it is used. The panelists will discuss the issue of bio/health informatics from the following perspectives:

Michael GreenAssociate Professor of Humanities, Penn State University College of Medicine, will discuss how interactive, computer-based decision aids can help people make informed medical decisions. He will discuss his ongoing research on genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility and a new project that uses computers to help people with end-of-life decisions.


Lynette KvasnyAssistant Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University, will use the notion of "digital inequality" to frame a discussion about the social impacts of online health resources. Examining differences in the ways in which various social groups are represented in online health resources raises sobering questions about the role of information technologies in reproducing the biases, stereotypes, and clinical uncertainties that contribute to health disparities along the lines of gender, class, race, and ethnicity.


Roxanne ParrottProfessor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State University, will consider that the motivations and abilities associated with health information searches are both empowering and limiting, as source layering associated with content may inhibit awareness of actual motives for making information available online. Moreover, gaps associated with accessibility and health literacy broaden these limitations.


Anthony RobinsonGraduate Student, Geography, Penn State University, will add that a particular challenge is to create an effective transition from systems used by a few researchers to systems used by a wider community of non-technical experts. This becomes an issue of ethics when research money nearly always focuses on innovation in functionality in place of good design. Health information systems fail to serve anyone if they are designed in a vacuum.