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August 20, 2014 - Leading Health Official Holds Local Session to Get Input on Health IT
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Dr. Karen DeSalvo speaks during an informal discussion with Alabama stakeholders regarding the current and future outlook of Health IT on a local and national level. Dr. DeSalvo is from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A high-ranking official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services came to Mobile in July with a mission - to listen and learn.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), was in town for a session that drew 50 attendees to the Battle House Hotel on July 22.  It was an informal discussion with Alabama stakeholders regarding the current and future outlook of Health IT on a local and national level.

As national coordinator of the ONC, Dr. DeSalvo is leading the nation’s charge to promote, adopt, and meaningfully use health information technology.  In particular, Dr. DeSalvo hopes to utilize electronic health records (EHR), in order to achieve better care, lower costs in health care and improve the overall health of everyone in America.

Dr. DeSalvo visited Mobile because of the ONC-funded Alabama Regional Extension Center (ALREC), a state-wide program through the USA Center for Strategic Health Innovation.  ALREC is the only center in the state of Alabama, and one of only 62 in the United States.  These centers facilitate provider transitions to electronic health record systems.

“Through the REC program, the ONC has taken a boots on the ground approach,” says Dr. Dan Roach, director of the USA Center for Strategic Health Innovation and ALREC. “The ALREC team members sit literally 'at the elbow' of the providers and their staff to assist them through the transition from paper to electronic health record systems.”

While ALREC has already helped more than 1,800 physicians transition to EHRs, the barriers identified at the meeting included high cost to implement an EHR, workflow challenges, and interoperability issues.  General resistance to change was also cited as an obstacle.

Dr. DeSalvo and her team are gathering feedback with the eventual goal of creating a nationwide interoperability roadmap so EHRs can eventually talk to each other and allow information to follow a patient wherever they go.

“We were honored to have an audience with Dr. DeSalvo,” says Dr. Roach. “This is evidence of the ONC’s commitment to the future of Health IT.”

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