AHRQ spotlights global health IT work

AHRQ-funded health IT research has helped organizations provide better care in developing countries, a new report from the agency shows. The report spotlights what Boston-based Partners in Health has accomplished on this score.

Partners in Health, or PIH, a global health nonprofit organization, which provides care in some of the poorest countries in the world, helped develop an open source electronic medical record system known as OpenMRS. The work was influenced by AHRQ-funded research on electronic order writing and computer reminders. OpenMRS is now impacting healthcare delivery in developing countries, as well as in the United States, Canada and Europe, according to AHRQ.

[See also: Boston-based group employs IT strength in Haiti.]

As the AHRQ report explains it, “PIH and the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis conceived of OpenMRS in 2005 as a flexible, open source EMR that would be capable of meeting the demand for high-quality health information in developing countries such as Rwanda and Kenya, where the two organizations were then working. The work was inspired by AHRQ-funded research by William Tierney, MD, and his colleagues at the Regenstrief Institute, which identified factors that are important to the design and successful implementation of EMR systems. PIH and Regenstrief used this research as a central contribution toward the development of OpenMRS. OpenMRS has since grown into a multi-institution, nonprofit software collaborative backed by a global software development community.”

According to Evan Waters, director of medical informatics at PIH, the organization has a long history of using OpenMRS in developing countries.

In Rwanda, PIH has worked in three rural districts since 2005, operating in three hospitals and 37 health centers that care for 800,000 citizens. The EHR provides decision support for clinicians managing HIV care, based on the work of Tierney and others. Beginning this month, PIH is working with the Rwandan government to support a rollout of OpenMRS to reach more than 200 health clinics in the country and to register more than 80,000 patients.

The government EMR system supports HIV treatment, and PIH is also working to support primary care and management of chronic diseases, such as heart failure, according to AHRQ.

Other work highlighted in the AHRQ report:

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