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6/21/2011
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Health IT Can Energize National Prevention Strategy

The feds say health IT should play a pivotal role in preventing disease through expanded use of EHRs, telemedicine, and social media.

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The Obama Administration has made several health IT-related recommendations in its National Prevention Strategy that call for expanded use of electronic health records (EHRs), social media tools, and mobile phone applications to help promote health and wellness.

The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies who consulted with outside experts and stakeholders. The 122-page document is a comprehensive plan to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.

The plan cites several recommendations that entail the use of technology to meet its objectives.

Healthy and Safe Community Environments

To foster healthy and safe community environments, the report suggests that health delivery organizations expand and increase access to information technology and integrated data systems as a way to promote cross-sector information exchange.

"Timely, reliable, and coordinated data, information, and communication increase capacity to plan and implement prevention strategies as well as detect and respond to threats to the public's health," the report states.

The document also noted that access to important, timely information relies on interoperable data systems, including mechanisms for data sharing and standards for data collection, privacy protection, and analysis.

"Linked data systems and metrics from a wide range of sectors and partners (e.g., healthcare, public health, emergency response, environmental, justice, transportation, labor, worker safety, and housing) can support decision making. Integrating key data systems can also help streamline eligibility requirements and expedite enrollment to facilitate access to health and social services," the report said.

To help share data, the report said healthcare systems, insurers, and clinicians can increase the use of certified EHRs to identify populations at risk.

Clinical and Community Preventive Services

Evidence-based preventive services tailored to individual health can be enhanced using certified EHRs and decision support tools, but the benefits of health information technology can only be derived if there are appropriate protections in place to keep health information private and secure, the report noted.

Another recommendation is to enhance the coordination and integration of clinical, behavioral, and complementary health strategies. The report notes that implementing effective care coordination models such as medical homes, community health teams, and integrated workplace health protection can help deliver a better quality of care and lower costs. Greater efficiency also can be realized through EHRs, e-prescribing, and telemedicine technologies that can reduce or eliminate gaps and duplication in patient care, especially among patients with multiple chronic conditions.

The report reiterated that the government will continue to encourage the adoption of certified EHRs that meets Meaningful Use criteria, especially EHRs that use clinical decision supports and registry functionality, and send reminders for preventive and follow-up care. Healthcare systems, insurers, and clinicians also can use EHRs to establish patient and clinical reminder systems to support preventive services.

Empowered People

The use of social media is mentioned as a vehicle than can empower people by initiating conversations about health and wellness issues with their family and friends as well as a community of people online. Healthcare systems, insurers, and clinicians can use other communications methods to support and empower individuals such as mobile phone applications, personal health records, and credible health websites to support more traditional written and oral communication, the report said.

Elimination of Health Disparities

In the effort to eliminate health disparities, the report recommends standardizing and collecting data to better identify and address disparities.

"Improving the standardization of population data, especially for race/ethnicity, age, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, primary language, disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and geographic location, will improve our ability to identify and target efforts to address health disparities," the report said.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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