Physician executives at two major academic medical centers last month unveiled facilities to study and discover ways to use information technology to improve the provision of healthcare.
Leaders at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., will attempt to reach as many people as possible by hosting several conferences a year on specific IT topics, publishing articles and developing Web-based learning tools, according to Executive Director David Osborn. The Web project will be a collaborative effort with Vanderbilt's Peabody School of Education.
In Boston, Harvard Medical School affiliate Partners HealthCare System launched the Center for Information Technology Leadership to analyze and report on new information technologies, also with an eye toward increasing healthcare quality.
"Our goal is to produce reports that will analyze hot topics in healthcare IT," says Blackford Middleton, M.D., director of clinical informatics research and development at Partners and chairman of the new center.
At Vanderbilt, the mission is to transform the healthcare system through optimal use of technology, says Bill Stead, M.D., chairman of the center and associate vice chancellor for health affairs at the school. "We think that nothing really important in healthcare has happened without a very strong presence in academia."
Researchers will seek to produce and measure health outcomes on investments, rather than the financial return on investment normally associated with healthcare IT projects. The center is hoping to promote what its leadership calls "the rapid advance."
"We want to accelerate the learning that goes on," Osborn says. "We want to develop some new means of learning."
Though the Partners program has a similar mission, it is taking a different approach.
"We want to inform IT decisionmaking for consumers of healthcare information technology and the producing vendor companies," Middleton says. "It's critical that the vendor organizations know how to make their own value propositions."
An advisory board made up of eight physician and IT leaders from around the country will identify, prioritize and select research topics. They then will convene an expert panel to review literature and either analyze secondary-source information or produce their own data, then publish reports, Middleton says.
The CITL will make its reports available to corporate sponsors and attendees of its planned annual meetings. Other interested parties will be able to purchase or subscribe to the reports.