Two top physicians urge vendors to overcome 'digital divide'
Health IT vendors should make sure they market and sell their products and services to healthcare providers in minority communities to avoid a new form of "digital divide" that could leave low-income areas without the benefit of electronic health records, according two of the nation's top physicians.
In a letter posted online Oct. 18, Dr. David Blumenthal, the national health IT coordinator, and Garth Graham, MD, director of the Office of Minority Health, said it was "absolutely necessary that the leading EHR vendors work together" to make electronic health records and other health IT available to physicians treating patients in 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," Blumenthal and Graham wrote.
"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," they wrote.
Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by chronic conditions, a contributing factor to intolerably high mortality and morbidity rates, the letter noted.
"It is critical that this administration, RECs and EHR vendors work together and focus substantial efforts on these priority populations," the two physicians said in the letter. Regional health IT extension centers (RECs) supply local technical assistance to physicians and small practices to adopt and become meaningful users of EHRs.
Electronic health records certified to meet meaningful use requirements help improve both the quality and efficiency of medical care, so that rates of chronic illness, mortality and morbidity could decrease within these communities, according to the letter.
With EHRs, physicians can improve decision-making and increase patient safety with fewer medical errors, which also may result in lower costs.