A message from Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology
October 18, 2010 — These are historic times. The HITECH Act is bringing the power of electronic health records to our health care system. We are writing to solicit your assistance in making sure that we are not creating a new form of “digital divide” and want to make sure that health IT community serves minority communities in their sales and marketing efforts.
Both the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Office of Minority Health (OMH) appreciate the significant benefits that the use of health information technology (HIT) and electronic health records (EHR) provide to both healthcare providers and patients in delivering and managing health. Some of these benefits include improved personal decision-making and increased patient safety (resulting in a decrease of medical errors) – both of which lead to improved quality and a more efficient delivery of care, that may result in the prospect of cost savings.
It is absolutely necessary that the leading EHR vendors work together, continuing to provide EHR adoption opportunities for physicians and other healthcare providers working within underserved communities of color. Despite our best efforts, data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey indicates that EHR adoption rates remain lower among providers serving Hispanic or Latino patients who are uninsured or relied upon Medicaid. Moreover, this data also identifies that EHR adoption rates among providers of uninsured non-Hispanic Black patients are lower than for providers of privately insured non-Hispanic White patients.
Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by chronic illness(es), a contributing factor to intolerably high mortality and morbidity rates.
Electronic health records possess the ability to help improve both the quality and efficiency of medical care accessible by minorities, so that perhaps rates of chronic illness, mortality and morbidity decrease within these communities. It is critical that this administration, Regional Extension Centers and EHR vendors work together and focus substantial efforts on these priority populations.
David Blumenthal, MD, MPP
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology