Each year, the digital holdings of the Johns Hopkins
Medical Institutions grow exponentially.
Just imagine a mountain of electronic records related to
research, education, patient care, finance
and administration. Now toss on top of that pile digital
images, electronic publications and personal
faculty papers. The list doesn't end there, but already you
have Mt. Everest.
While this information is backed up and secured at the
department or division level, JHMI does
not currently have an overarching plan in place for the
future preservation and management of all
these electronic records.
Concerned about the risk of losing a large portion of
critical institutional records in electronic
Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives has taken the lead
on a feasibility study, which
begins next month, for an electronic records management
program that would serve the schools of
Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and The Johns Hopkins
To aid its mission, the Medical Archives last month
received from the National Historical
Publications and Records Commission a grant for $50,000, a
figure that was matched by the School of
Nancy McCall, an archivist for the School of Medicine
and author of the grant proposal, said
that in developing a strategic digital archiving plan for
the Medical Archives, it became clear that
there was no such plan in place at the institutional
"The information is just piling up, and what happens
to it after five years or so? Will we be able
to access all of it? What if we lose some of it? Right now
there are no provisions," McCall said.
"Our aim with this feasibility study is to serve as a
catalyst for the discussion of issues related
to the management of electronic records. We want to bring
people together and raise the level of
consciousness to these concerns."
McCall said that a major concern is that significant
institutional information in electronic
formats will not survive unless concerted measures are
taken to preserve the data and migrate it to
formats where it may be made accessible and usable on a
The main goal of the study is to develop a feasible
electronic records management model for
JHMI that institutional leaders will accept, endorse and
begin to implement. The proposal would be
completed by March 2009 and presented to JHMI
To shepherd the process, the Medical Archives will use
the grant to hire an electronic records
archivist who would serve as project coordinator. Members
of the Medical Archives will initially staff
the project. Over the next 12 months, they will bring
together JHMI staff, faculty and students who
will serve as an advisory team and offer the expertise
needed to select a viable conceptual model for
the records management program.
Darren Lacey, chief information security officer for
the university and Johns Hopkins Medicine,
said that the feasibility study is an important project
that will certainly raise a lot of interesting
"There are a whole bunch of technology-related issues
related to the management of this
amount of data, and you can spend forever digging through
that. Then, there are privacy and security
questions for handling all this information," said Lacey,
who will serve as an adviser for the project.
"The challenge of it all is aligning the interests among
the different groups that have an interest in
medical records. Perhaps this study will help frame the
issues people have so we can understand what
we want to do moving forward."
McCall said that in the coming months she hopes to
bring together key people to begin the
development of the digital management plan. "This is just
the very beginning of our efforts," she said.
"This is something that I, personally, have been concerned
with for two decades, and I'm excited to
move forward with the process."