Health Information Gone Digital

By Cherise Tasker

Check out the new Heath IT Cancer Resources Guide. The site takes an innovative approach to cataloging informative medical websites and apps. Many excellent websites offer wellness and health resources, but this site goes a step further by dividing the resources within a patient-supportive framework. The 76 digital tools are divided in five categories as follows: Decision Making, Education, Information and Treatment management, Social Support, and Lifestyle Management.

The eHealth Initiative is a unique nonprofit collaboration between nonprofit and commercial healthcare organizations; community and academic centers; and medical, clinical, and information technology professionals. The diverse influences and perspectives allow the organization to advocate for health information technology that meets the needs of patients, providers, payers, and quality monitors. For example, innovative technology will help care providers communicate electronically through health information exchanges (HIEs). Patients will have access to more efficient, state-of-the-art healthcare that is not limited by the patient’s area of residence. These cooperatives are being built specifically with healthcare in mind and with the privacy considerations unique to patient care. For example, many of Maryland’s hospitals and long-term care facilities are already members of CRISP (Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients), an HIE dedicated to data sharing for improved patient care. As HIEs evolve, patients will more easily be able to move between care providers who will all be able to access critical medical documentation in a secure electronic environment.

Not only are health technology experts taking on the challenge of interconnectivity within states, they are addressing the national challenge as well. Regional Health Information Exchanges (RHIOs) would connect hospitals in different states and between HIEs. The RHIO networks would allow community providers to share data with local hospitals and academic centers. Patients needing specialty care in other locations or patients experiencing health issues while traveling could be cared for more quickly and expertly when care providers have access to medical problem lists, prescription records, prior laboratory results, and existing diagnostic studies such as EKGs. The information would be available through secure, private portals accessible only after patient consent and staff access verification.

Each of us can go digital with our own health information. Creating an online personal health record (PHR) collects medical data in an automated environment that one can access from anywhere there is a computer with Internet. A PHR is a convenient way to keep track of one’s medications, for example. In case of a medical emergency, a trusted friend or family member could access the information and provide it to healthcare providers. Free online PHR programs are available on websites such as WebMD. Several of Maryland’s hospitals have PHR programs as part of their online tools for their patients. Howard County General Hospital has information on its website about creating a PHR, including a link to a free program created by the American Health Information Management Association.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.