5 eHealth Developments Impacting Underserved Communities
It has been a long road, America. We have passed the last several years uncertain about the future of ObamaCare, the financial challenges facing the nation and its health care industry, and the enduring spatial inequality in health outcomes. This will surely be a watershed year for the U.S. health care system, as the country ramps up to begin implementing the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act rolling out in 2014.
Health IT bloggers and experts have reflected on the progress made in the field in 2012 and forecasted the key eHealth trends to watch for. Health IT professionals have also identified disappointments and hurdles to be overcome in the next year, like the slow pace of the digital health "revolution," and interoperability issues that are keeping health IT systems from achieving the profitability that was previously forecasted. Without profitability, it will be increasingly difficult to secure the health care provider buy-in necessary to continue expanding the adoption of health IT — and to capture the benefits.
We know technology will transform the health care system. Health IT could narrow the health disparities gap in underserved communities — or it could significantly widen the gulf. Immigrants, at-risk youth, monolingual families, seniors, low-income households, minority populations and people with disabilities experience higher morbidity rates and lower quality health care services. These population groups also face systemic limitations to accessing and using eHealth applications like smartphone apps to monitor chronic conditions and electronic health records (EHRs) through an online web portal. To be a health outcomes equalizer, eHealth must be accessible, consumer-friendly and culturally appropriate.
We analyzed recent eHealth developments based on how they could impact underserved communities. Mobile health, telemedicine, clinical analytics, EHRs and the Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements: These have the potential to either narrow or exacerbate health disparities. Thus, we look at these trends through the lens of underserved patients and the providers and systems serving them. Over the upcoming weeks, we will bring you in-depth discussions on this blog exploring each of these eHealth applications and their impact on underserved communities. In these explorations, we will also showcase ways that philanthropy, government and private enterprise are harnessing eHealth to make tangible improvements for epidemiologically at-risk populations and people living in underserved areas.
5 eHealth Developments To Know About
Mobile Health: Also known as mHealth, it is the practice of medicine and public health that is supported by mobile devices. This includes smartphone apps, text reminders for doctor appointments and real-time monitoring of vital signs using handheld devices.
Telemedicine: The use of telecommunications and IT to provide clinical health care from a distance. This includes videoconferencing, remote monitoring and store-and-forward data transmission.
Clinical Analytics: Also called health care analytics, it is software and consulting services that collect and analyze data to drive better service delivery, reduce errors and lower costs.
EHRs: Electronic Health Records are digitally stored records of patients’ health information. They can be shared with patients, providers and others involved in delivering and managing care.
Meaningful Use Stage 2: The second stage of the Meaningful Use regulation for EHRs requires health care providers to actively engage patients by enabling them to electronically view, download, and transmit EHR information.
With thoughtful design and enabling policies, health care professionals, community health centers, funders and others can ensure that eHealth applications and tools promote social justice, build community assets and improve health and wellness for all people in 2013.