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Report Highlights Potential of Health Information Technology to Reduce Health Disparities

Posted: February 21, 2013

Communities of color could see significant improvements in their health through strategic use of emerging technologies in health care, according to a new report, Equity in the Digital Age: How Health Information Technology Can Reduce Disparities. The report by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Consumers Union, and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), 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. “As we embrace a comprehensive strategy to bring our health care 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 health care system.”

According to the report, one area where HIT holds the potential for dramatic improvement is in data collection and analysis, where enhanced demographic information could help pinpoint disparities and lead to a more culturally and linguistically appropriate workforce and provision of services. The report also discusses the need for security to prevent the misuse of health data. It references a set of principles developed by a cross section of California consumer, patient, and civil rights organizations in 2010 to maximize the benefits of health information exchange while assuring the privacy and security of electronic records. The report was released today by health and consumer advocacy organizations at a White House Summit on Achieving eHealth Equity hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Office of Minority Health, and ZeroDivide.

Read the full report (pdf).

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