Secretary Sebelius Releases New Success Story Report: Health Information Technology Strengthens Care in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a report on how health information technology can improve health care for Americans living in rural communities. The report examines how the Columbia Basin Health Association in Othello, Wash., uses health information technology to improve health care quality and patient safety as well as promote care coordination and continuity. The complete report is available now at www.healthreform.gov.

"The Columbia Basin Health Association is just one place in America where health information technology and electronic health records have helped ensure patients get better care," said Secretary Sebelius. "Health information technology can reduce paperwork, make care more efficient and let doctors spend more time practicing medicine and less time filling out forms."

Columbia Basin Health Association (CBHA) provides 25,000 patients with access to a variety of medical, dental, prescription, and other services. CBHA was also one of the first health centers in the United States to fully transition from paper-based charts to an electronic health record (EHR) system.

In response to the growing prevalence of diabetes in rural communities, CBHA used their EHR system to better track 1,302 diabetic patients. CBHA monitored whether patients received recommended exams and then provided feedback to health care providers on their performance. In January 2008, only 31 percent of patients at CBHA had received a foot exam and only 37 percent had received an eye exam during the previous year. By June 2008, 86 percent of patients had received a foot exam and 63 percent had received an eye exam over the previous year. Since CBHA's implementation of EHRs, the community health center has consistently ranked above the 95th percentile nationally in total medical and dental team productivity.

Approximately 65 million Americans live in communities with shortages of primary care providers and nearly 50 million of those Americans live in rural areas. Health information technology, and specifically EHRs, can improve care for patients and assist in clinical decision making and the use of evidence-based guidelines. Electronic health records can also decrease administrative hassle, increasing workplace satisfaction and productivity.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act encourages greater use of health information technology through significant and new investments. Through incentive payments to providers and hospitals, funding from the Recovery Act will accelerate the adoption of health information technology and the creation of an interoperable, nationwide network. Health insurance reform will build on this investment by simplifying and streamlining administrative procedures, investing in telehealth and improving the quality of health care.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

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