Health IT solutions help combat healthcare related disparities

According to a new report released at a White House Summit hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Office of Minority Health and ZeroDivide stressed on the fact that the use of health IT could not only help to improve the quality of care, but also eliminate healthcare and related disparities.

The report, “Equity in the Digital Age: How Health Information Technology Can Reduce Disparities,” by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, or CPEHN, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, or APIAHF, Consumers Union and the National Council of La Raza offers policy recommendations for how advancements can best improve health in all communities and highlights the importance of improving access to new technologies in underserved areas to avoid exacerbating existing disparities.

“We have a great opportunity to improve quality of care, enhance patient participation and understanding, and reduce health disparities nationwide through the use of HIT,” said Ellen Wu, executive director of CPEHN, in a news release. “As we embrace a comprehensive strategy to bring our healthcare system into the Digital Age, we must acknowledge that technology gaps exist for communities of color, immigrants, and people who do not speak English well. If we are not careful, we risk widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots in our healthcare system.”

The report stated that Health IT has a great potential of improvement for data collection and health analysis. Information like enhanced demography can help pinpoint disparities and lead to a more culturally and linguistically appropriate workforce and provision of services.

“Gathering data on race/ethnicity and language needs at enrollment, combined with a robust system of electronic health records, has the potential to change the healthcare experience in our communities,” Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of APIAHF, said in the news release. “For example, detailed demographic information on Asian American and Pacific Islander patients and their language needs can help hospitals determine staffing needs such as the number of interpreters and what languages they speak and make translated materials available much more easily.”

The report cautions that while electronic portals for enrollment in public programs like Medicaid should improve program participation, it is important to construct these portals in a way that avoids creating additional barriers for some populations.

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