EHRs can boost health of low-income, minority populations

Among the many goals of the federal EHR incentive program is to help improve health in low-income and minority communities that traditionally have been underserved but suffer from disproportionately high rates of chronic illness, two top HHS officials say.

In his latest open letter, national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal is joined by Dr. Garth Graham, director of the HHS Office of Minority Health. They note that EHR adoption rates for providers with large minority and Medicaid populations are lower than those serving mostly privately insured white populations. And they are leaning on the vendor community to help close this "digital divide," in concert with the Obama administration and the federally designated Regional Extension Centers.

"It is critical that this administration, Regional Extension Centers and EHR vendors work together and focus substantial efforts on these priority populations," Blumenthal and Graham write.

"It is absolutely necessary that the leading EHR vendors work together, continuing to provide EHR adoption opportunities for physicians and other healthcare providers working within underserved communities of color," they add. "Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by chronic illness[es], a contributing factor to intolerably high mortality and morbidity rates. Electronic health records possess the ability to help improve both the quality and efficiency of medical care accessible by minorities, so that perhaps rates of chronic illness, mortality and morbidity decrease within these communities."

To learn more:
- read Blumenthal and Graham's letter
- take a look a this Health Data Management story