National Partnership for Women & Families

Health IT Background

Have you ever experienced frustrations or problems due to the lack of communication and coordination in the health care system? In many cases, this is because the health care system has not taken full advantage of technology, or Health IT, to transform how care is delivered.

Imagine: Rather than sharing information on paper, by phone or by fax machine, the use of Health IT can put your medical history at your doctor’s fingertips. It can improve coordination between your primary doctors and specialists, between doctors, pharmacists and labs, and even between you and your care team members. It can let physicians order medications, lab work, and other tests electronically, and then access the results via computer. It can even provide you with direct access to your own health information. And it can improve reporting of disease outbreaks, help physicians make evidence-based decisions and help avoid medical errors.

The reasons for this are many. The cost of adopting EHR systems, the complexity of buying an IT system, and the difficulties associated with making a transition to using a computer all make this a very difficult task. Some small, rural physician practices and hospitals have an even harder time implementing health IT.

But the increased federal focus on health IT, including a number of provisions in the stimulus law of 2009 and the recent health reform legislation, has spurred tremendous activity in health IT adoption. This activity creates a compelling need for consumer involvement at the local, state and national levels to ensure that these new technologies are designed and used to deliver the kinds of care and support that people need and deserve.

The Potential of Health IT

Health IT alone will not solve the facing our health system, but its implementation and effective use can provide a foundation for improvement. Learn more

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