Photo: David J. Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., (right)
converses with OU-COM Dean Jack Brose, D.O., during a break at the “RHIOhio:
Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural Ohio” conference at Baker
University Center, Sept. 17 and 18.
Strickland advances health care information technology initiative at
OU-COM’s RHIOhio conference
by Kevin M. Sanders
Sept. 26, 2007
The future of Ohio’s health
information digital highway received a big boost Monday when Gov.
Ted Strickland signed an executive order forming the Ohio Health
Information Partnership Advisory Board. The board is charged with
creating an operational plan and a business proposal to create a
public/private organization to coordinate a strategy for using
electronic health records and health information exchange.
Janetta King, policy director for
Governor Strickland, announced the establishment of the board before
a group of more than 150 leaders in health care, policy and
technology attending the “RHIOhio: Bridging the Digital Divide in
Rural Ohio” conference. The conference, which took place Sept. 17
and 18 in Athens at Ohio University, brought together conference
participants to examine the opportunities and challenges of
deploying electronic medical information systems and forming
regional health information organizations (RHIOs) in rural areas of
Ohio. The conference was organized by Ohio University College of
Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) and the Ohio Department of Health
RHIOs are seen as the likely
building blocks that will allow for the
secure digital exchange of electronic medical records across the
Part of the governor’s Turnaround
Ohio plan, King explained that utilizing information technologies in
health care, including electronic medical records, is an important
goal of the Strickland administration. They envision all types of
providers — hospitals as well physicians in private practice,
practitioners treating behavioral as well as physical conditions and
those being paid by Medicaid as well as private insurance — using
information technologies to provide better, more accessible and less
expensive health care.
“I think we are all here today
because we understand the many, many benefits of establishing a
health IT infrastructure and sharing health information, including
efficiency, quality, cost savings, and — important for rural areas —
increasing access and making it easier to navigate the system as
patients travel to and from different providers and health systems,”
“The board is important because it
is a public/private partnership that begins to centralize all the
disparate projects and discussions involving the development of
health information exchange in Ohio,” said Brian Phillips,
chief information officer at OU-COM and conference chairman. “It
involves the Strickland administration in the wide range of efforts
that are occurring at local and regional levels and provides the
basis for effective statewide coordination.”
David J. Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., the
former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under
the Bush administration, highlighted the opportunities and
challenges inherent in bridging the digital divide in rural
communities in his keynote address at the conference.
Health information technology (HIT),
he said, can increase the capacity of physicians to see more
patients, break down geographical barriers to health care access,
improve the quality of health care and reduce the cost of health
care, all of which are important to rural providers and consumers.
Although government can be a key
player in the advance of health information exchange, he said,
“Don’t wait on the government to do this for you. No one can do this
better than you in your own state and community. You may not feel
this way, but you are all pioneers.”
Brailer sees state leaders such as
governors and legislators helping to support those in the forefront
of implementing HIT.
“The ability and willingness of
providers to adopt health information technology are affected by
several factors, one of which is cost,” said William Hayes, Ph.D.,
president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Hayes had worked
with the governor’s office to develop the executive order which
established the board.
“I hope (the board) will bring
added attention from leaders across the spectrum, and potentially,
it makes it easier to get the financial commitment needed to launch
and sustain the effort to fully implement health information
exchange,” said Hayes.
The conference, he said,
should spur more of the necessary collaboration and networking to
take place across the state.
“RHIOhio will build
momentum (for health information exchange) in other parts of Ohio as
well as Southeastern Ohio.”
“HIT holds much promise,” said Alvin
Jackson, M.D., ODH director, “as an important tool for making
significant improvements to our health care system and, ultimately,
to improving health status and reducing disparities for citizens of
the state of Ohio.”
Two of the many benefits HIT offers,
said Jackson, were improved access to health information for both
patients and providers, including the ability for multiple providers
treating the same patient to gain quick access to relevant
histories, lab results and other information, and automated clinical
decision support that is evidence-based and incorporates the latest
in medical research.
ODH, he said, is committed to
assisting rural HIT implementation efforts by helping to assess
needs, build coalitions, coordinate efforts and identify resources
“The fact is that people in rural
areas of Ohio face significant access barriers to care,” said U.S.
Representative Zack Space from Ohio’s 18th Congressional
District. “Using telemedicine technology, we can give people
access to medical treatment they would not otherwise have.
“I have been working very hard in
Congress to provide incentives and free up resources to help bridge
the digital divide disproportionately affecting rural Ohio.
“Failure is simply not an option.”
Conference sponsors included The
Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, Horizon Telecom, Gateway, OhiONE,
OhioHealth, Ohio Hospital Association and the Governor’s Office of