Ethel Donaghue TRIPP Center, University of Connecticut
Making Online Connections for Better Health Outcomes
Imagine that a low-income youth suffering from asthma comes to a community health center in Connecticut. The patient was last treated at an unaffiliated clinic in another town, and an ER before that. His parent can’t remember all of his health history. He has no medications, and he is still wheezing.
Now imagine that his doctor can use the patient’s name and condition to query an electronic health record, which requests, receives and integrates the correct patient data from both the other clinic and the ER. The clinician sees the diagnosis, the treatment, and any allergies the patient has. She is able to prescribe more of the correct medication via an electronic prescription, and schedule a follow-up appointment. The doctor also can also pull data on patients with similar chronic medical conditions.
This scenario is not a reality yet, but the Ethel Donaghue TRIPP Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC) is working to change that. In 2007, the center received a two-year, $381,000 grant to integrate health information technology (HIT) into a collaborative of seven community-based health centers in Connecticut, as well as UCHC. This network of providers, entitled Safety.Net, hoped to create a dynamic HIT network that would provide more effective electronic records keeping and communication between centers in the collaborative and beyond. The web-based communications platform would facilitate better disease management, data reporting and patient access to care.
New technologies may open the door for better, more efficient health care and innovative treatment strategies, but it won’t happen overnight. The TRIPP Center found several challenges in adopting use of electronic health records in safety net settings, including: initial hardware and software costs; long-term financing for upgrades and maintenance; workflow redesign issues; staff training; information technology support; system interoperability and a lack of standardization among vendors.
While safety net sites are eager to bring the benefits of HIT to their patients, they also recognize the value of patient input, data security concerns and internal and external consensus building while developing these new system changes.
The TRIPP Center will advance its work in bringing new technology to patients across the state by establishing a HIT Resource Center and continuing efforts to shape state-wide policy.