Health Information Technology

In recent years, health information technology (IT) has shown to have important effects on the practice of medicine and health management. With new advancements, such as electronic records, physicians can have easier access to a patient’s history, diagnose a patient’s condition more quickly, and prescribe the most appropriate therapy in a cost-effective manner. Disease management programs can be strengthened with electronic records and other innovations and help individuals to manage their diseases more effectively and possibly avoid costly complications. Health professionals can keep track of diagnostic information of their patients’ health by asking their patients to submit their health data to a central health database. This grants an active role of health management to the health professional as well as the patient.

Health IT can also improve quality of care. In May 2006, a study reported that more than 80 percent of hospital executives considered IT to be a very valuable factor for improving the quality of care. Health IT has enhanced the quality of care by improving the timeliness of clinical information, diagnosis and treatment for individuals admitted to the hospital. Furthermore, 22 percent of hospitals reported that they witnessed a reduction in medical errors and improvements in patient safety. Finally, 11 percent reported that they observed increased efficiency in patient management.

Adopting an interoperable, national health information system would also benefit public health officials across the country. Our public health system needs the most advanced surveillance methods to monitor disease trends and develop the most appropriate health interventions for our citizens. Electronic health records can provide real-time data for public health surveillance activities and greatly enhance health interventions. These electronic health records can be maintained on a local, state and federal level for maximum effectiveness. With public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid providing health coverage for a significant percentage of the population across the country, state policymakers should understand that health IT can have a positive impact on disease management programs and help reduce healthcare costs.

Source: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Assessing the Use of Information Technology in Health Care. 2005.

Recent Events

Women In Government featured information of innovations in health delivery at it's 13th Annual Southern & 14th Annual Eastern Regional Conferences in Memphis, Tennessee. Legislators learned about the next generation of medical homes, reimbursements, and billing. The first speaker, Joan Gardner, spoke about her work as the Executive Director of State Services with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s Office of Policy and Representation in Washington, DC. The Association is a national federation of 38 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for 100 million individuals – nearly one-in-three of all Americans. She spoke about her work, and the innovations in technology that is changing the delivery of health. View Ms. Gardner's presentation here. Inga Himelright, MD, MPH, spoke about her work as the Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of BlueCross BlueShield. In this role Dr. Himelright oversees the development, implementation, and monitoring of the Total Health Care Management programs for the commercial business and established markets business unit. To learn more about her work, view her presentation here.

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