Achieving eHealth Equity – A report from National Minority Health Month

Erin Siminerio, M.P.H. | April 29, 2013

As part of National Minority Health Month, we’re excited to release a brief report summarizing some important conversations that have recently taken place around the issue of eHealth equity.

As background, in February, ONC helped organize a White House Summit on Achieving eHealth Equity in collaboration with the Office of Minority Health, and ZeroDivide-an organization working to use technology to reduce economic and health disparities.

Many of those participants came together again earlier this month for a follow-up conversation via webinar, and pledged to keep their conversations going into the future.  A summary of the Achieving eHealth Equity discussions is available online.

 

Increased Access to Health IT will Benefit Minority Health Outcomes
We have good reason to believe that increasing the use of health IT among providers and eHealth for patient engagement will yield benefits for everyone—not just those who have access to the state-of-the-art health care facilities or people with the latest cell phone or gadget.

A new report released by the California Pan Ethnic Health Network at the White House Summit on Achieving eHealth Equity highlights some key benefits of expanded health IT use. For example, data collected through EHRs can help pinpoint health equity issues and give researchers some of the tools they need to find interventions to address those issues.

For patients, particularly those with specific linguistic, cultural, or other needs, use of this data can help ensure they have access to the right resources when using the health care system.  In our recent Health Affairs paper, we cite two examples of research that highlight this potential.

 

Challenges in leveraging Health IT for Improving Minority Health
We’ve established that technology is a powerful tool to reduce disparities among the underserved, but barriers remain.  The White House Summit participants identified several of those barriers, which included:

  1. Improving the access to culturally appropriate and/or universally designed tools. This issue will likely receive further attention with the recent release of the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care.
  2. Increasing awareness among minorities about eHealth
  3. Demonstrating and publicizing  the potential of eHealth to address health equity issues, and
  4. Increasing the venues that demonstrate the effectiveness of eHealth tools’ ability to create health improving instruments for targeted and at risk communities.

 

Ideas for Next Steps to Increase Health IT’s Role in Minority Health Outcomes
The group generated many ideas, and followed up on those ideas with solid commitments for action. Some ideas that emerged from the meeting include:

  • Connect the needs of underserved populations with the entrepreneurial community
  • Work to get equity issues on the agenda of industry meetings
  • Support more research to build the evidence base for the impact of eHealth

 

HHS is committed to the advancement of health equity and eHealth equity.
As Dr. Farzad Mostashari put it,

ONC’s goal is to improve health and health care for all through the use of information technology. We have the opportunity and possibility with health information technology to tackle some of the most difficult problems by making visible what is often invisible in healthcare.

The Summit represented neither the beginning nor the end of the conversation but rather and opportunity to bring key stakeholders together to share successes, challenges and a passion for working individually and collaboratively to make eHealth equity a reality.

Download the Achieving eHealth Equity summary report and comment below with your thoughts. 

We look forward to continuing the conversation on this important topic.

 

P.S.

Special thanks for their help organizing the Summit to:

Also, a special thanks to our partners at ZeroDivide, for their excellent facilitation of the meeting, especially:

  • Carladenise Edwards
  • Laura Efurd