How can we use technology to advance our health care system? This has been a commonly asked question in the medical community lately and one that a group of leading experts in the field gathered to discuss at the fifth annual Workshop on Health IT and Economics (WHITE) held Oct. 10-11 in Alexandria, VA, presented by the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) in the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The two-day event featured a number of speakers representing the many different stakeholders in the health technology field, including researchers, practitioners, entrepreneurs, and regulators among others.
The event kicked off with keynote speaker Kelly Cronin, Director of the Office of Care Transformation at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), who provided a thorough description of ONC’s strategy for enhancing and expanding the nation’s health IT system to improve care.
Among the ONC’s many initiatives to improve care, Cronin repeatedly emphasized the agency’s goal to provide interoperability and connectivity between all care providers as a central priority. Cronin noted that in the short-term, the ONC is focused on “[developing] the ability to send, find and receive essential health information across the entire care continuum.”
Cronin also discussed the importance of collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders in the system given the uncertainties that lie ahead. “It’s sort of a messy period – we don’t know exactly what works. There is a lot of change management going on in the health care system that’s quite stressful to a lot of providers. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of uncertainty with how much risk they should assume,” Cronin stated. “What we need is a whole connected ecosystem of health IT that really allows for virtual integration care and data analytics and measurement utilities.”
Another popular topic in the health community recently has been the development of mobile and wearable health technologies, which was discussed by a panel of experts during the workshop’s first panel titled “Technology-Enabled Ubiquitous Care.” The panel featured Kevin Patrick, Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UCSD; Jonathon Linkous, CEO at American Telemedicine Association; and Anand K. Iyer, Chief Data Scientist at WellDoc and was moderated by CHIDS' founding co-director and the Robert H. Smith Dean's Chair of Information Systems Ritu Agarwal.
Commenting on the subject prior to the workshop, Agarwal said, “the landscape of healthcare is changing dramatically. Continuing digitization of medical information, rapid innovations in technology and Affordable Care Act implementation is driving these changes. New challenges emerge every day regarding the design, management, utilization, and evaluation of health IT to support the mission of improving quality and reducing costs. They represent unprecedented research opportunities that have the potential to influence both policymakers and practitioners.”
Keeping in line with Agarwal’s introduction, the hot button topic encouraged impassioned discussion from the panelists, with each making their case for strategies and tactics to help technological advancements better inform our health care system. While the panelists experiences and fields of expertise varied widely, each placed an emphasis on the need to use data effectively, rather than just compiling as much data as possible. As one example of the effective implementation of this practice, Iyer spoke about WellDoc’s BlueStar product, a first of its kind mobile app that provides diabetes therapy. Unlike other mobile or wearable products, BlueStar is prescribable by doctors and offers patients with real-time medical guidance based on the patient’s entries.
In addition to hearing panels and speeches from talented experts, the workshop also provided an opportunity for top researchers from all over the country to share their cutting edge research with a group of their peers. This year marked the first year that the event announced award winners for a number of research categories. The award winners include:
Best Paper: Saving Patient Ryan – Can Health IT Make Patient Care Safer? Evidence from Pennsylvania Hospitals
Muhammad Zia Hydari, Carnegie Mellon University; Rahul Telang, Carnegie Mellon University; William M. Marella, Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority
Best Student-Authored Paper: Technological Innovation and Productivity in Service Delivery: Evidence from the Adoption of Electronic Medical Records
Rezwan Haque, Harvard University
Young Researcher Award: The Spillover Effects of Health IT Investments on Regional Health Care Costs
Hilal Atasoy, Temple University; Pei-yu Chen, Arizona State University; Kartik Ganju, Temple University
Other topics from the 2014 workshop included provider use of technology, costs of care, organizational behavior, and patient engagement, among others.
Read more about the Center for Health Information Decision Systems at the CHIDS website.
WHITE is supported by gold sponsor Booz Allen Hamilton, plus the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, CNSI, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and the Smith School of Business.
About the Center for Health, Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS)
CHIDS is an academic research center in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland at College Park. It works in collaboration with industry and federal, state, and local government affiliates, and is designed to research, analyze, and recommend solutions to challenges surrounding the introduction and integration of information and decision technologies into the healthcare system. The research at CHIDS seeks to understand how digital technologies can be more effectively deployed to address outcomes such as patient safety, healthcare quality, efficiency in healthcare delivery, and a reduction in health disparities. CHIDS offers the benefit of a world-class research staff and renowned scholars in the economic, social, behavioral, and managerial aspects of technology implementation, adoption, assimilation, and return on investment. Since its inception in 2005, CHIDS has served as a focal point for thought leadership around the topic of health information and decision systems.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.