||Attendees at the e-health conference included (from l) Dr. Charles Safran of Harvard, Dr. Audie Atienza of NCI and Dr. David Gustafson of the University of Wisconsin.
Information technology (IT) is redefining the way health care is delivered. Consider, for example,
patients who can send digital photographs of a suspicious mole to their physician to determine
if an office visit is warranted. Other studies
involve patients using web-based, multimedia
and wireless programs that have been developed to help enhance the quality of health care. But how do researchers determine the effectiveness of these innovative approaches?
“Health information technology is developing at a very rapid pace. Electronic health research related to emerging technology has not kept pace with that progress,” said Dr. Audie Atienza, health scientist administrator/behavioral scientist,
National Cancer Institute. He was the organizer of “Critical Issues in eHealth Research Conference: Toward Quality Patient-Centered Care,” held recently.
“There are many competing assumptions and hypotheses about the impact and value of new technologies on patients and other users,” said Dr. Robert Croyle, director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at NCI. “These need to be tested empirically to ensure that future investments have the greatest possible
impact on reducing morbidity and mortality.”
The field of e-health has emerged from the explosion of advances in IT over the past decade as innovative concepts have been applied to health-care settings. Atienza defines patient-centered e-health as “health information
technologies that are used for bridging patient care across time and distance, moving
beyond traditional boundaries to connect
patients to care, clinical teams and other health systems.” Developing e-health research has become a national priority as a means of not only enhancing the quality of care, especially
for underserved populations, but also for improving patient outcomes and satisfaction with the health care experience.
The conference provided an interdisciplinary forum to discuss major methodologic and conceptual
issues in e-health research, connective IT and patient-centered care. Experts discussed such key issues as e-health in the HMO setting, electronic medical records in research networks and international settings, care coordination and patient self-management and the personal
health record as a research design and data collection resource. A special panel discussed national research priorities in informatics.
Besides NCI, cosponsors of the conference included NLM, NIDA, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the Office of Disease Prevention.