The much-feared digital divide now is being recognized as having racial and ethnic components that the government and health information technology vendors should address, according to the federal health IT czar.
Blumenthal asks vendors to help prevent 'digital divide'
In an open letter posted online to the health IT vendor community, David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, asked health information technology vendors for their help "in making sure that we are not creating a new form of 'digital divide.' " Blumenthal also asked vendors of electronic health-record systems to ensure that they "include providers who serve minority communities in their sales and marketing efforts."
"Despite our best efforts, data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey indicates that EHR adoption rates remain lower among providers serving Hispanic or Latino patients who are uninsured or relied upon Medicaid," Blumenthal said. "Moreover, this data also identifies that EHR adoption rates among providers of uninsured non-Hispanic black patients are lower than for providers of privately insured non-Hispanic white patients."
Data from the survey was not immediately available.
Blumenthal wasn't just pointing a finger at IT vendors. The lower rate of IT adoption among providers who serve racial and ethnic minorities, he said, is part of a larger social issue in healthcare inequality that also needs to be addressed by the Office of the National Coordinator and the regional extension centers that the ONC established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately affected by chronic illness(es), a contributing factor to intolerably high mortality and morbidity rates," Blumenthal said. "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. It is critical that this administration, RECs (regional extension centers) and EHR vendors work together and focus substantial efforts on these priority populations."
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