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Virtually Speaking

National Health IT Week – a meeting of unsung heroes

Posted by Thomas J. Morrow, M.D. on Sep 14, 2014 4:16:27 PM


One of the biggest health problems faced by our nation – a killer responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year – is on the verge of being eradicated.

But, surprisingly enough, the cure isn’t a new surgical technique or miracle drug – it’s a series of advancements in information technology that operates behind the scenes, preventing errors in medical records, keeping patients adherent to their medication regimens and providing coaching that will lead to healthier lifestyles.

An event kicking-off this week is dedicated to bringing these advancements to life.

National Health IT Week is a collaborative forum that gathers industry leaders who are dedicated to advancing health through the best use of information technology. The task may not appear glamorous, but a quick look at the numbers points to its undeniable importance.

The burden placed on the U.S. by medical errors and failure of patients to take their medications as scheduled is staggeringly high. The American College of Preventive Medicine estimates that non-adherence causes 125,000 deaths and an unnecessary cost of up to $300 billion every year.

EHRs (electronic health records), which offer a huge improvement over paper-based record keeping, have room for improvement too: the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reports that between 2004 and 2012, there were 3,099 reported EHR errors – like data entered into incorrect fields, lack of notification to the proper healthcare professionals and failure to update data.

Next IT is excited about National Health IT Week, and so am I, because the exchange of knowledge it promotes will have a large effect on our nation’s health. It’s the place to learn about new developments in tech like wearables, mobile devices and EHRs, all of which, to us, present new opportunities for integration with our technology. Virtual health assistants (VHAs) effectively coach patients to be adherent, they have huge potential for ensuring accurate entry of data into EHRs, and they’re a highly effective way to bring about needed lifestyle changes.

Want to learn more? In this short video, I give a brief rundown of NHIT Week and the emerging role of VHAs.

Topics: Healthcare, Patient Engagement