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Future of Health IT on Display at Gathering

The future of health care depends on the present of health information technology.

That was the take-home message yesterday, during the first day of a two-day conference on the progress and promise of health IT in California. The gathering is called “Connecting California to Improve Patient Care in 2012: Practical Solutions for Health Information Exchange and Quality Analytics.” That mouthful was nothing compared to the arcane and complex conversation during the first of a two-day conference in Rohnert Park. The conference concludes today.

“We are using data to improve people’s health care,” said Linette Scott, chief medical information officer for the state Department of Health Care Services. Scott said the success of state health care projects, like the duals demonstration project (also known as the Coordinated Care Initiative), for instance, depends on the successful development of information technology.

“We have a number of quality issues under way, programs like the Coordinated Care Initiative and these are the business drivers for HIE,” Scott said. “That coordination of care is dependent on HIE, it’s all about having the data at the right time.”

Ken Kizer, director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC-Davis — the organization taking over Cal eConnect — said some changes are in store for the public/private partnership.

“We need to have a greater connection between private- and public-funded HIE projects,” Kizer said. “And we need to make sure this is sustainable. And we do that by demonstrating value.”

Kizer said Cal eConnect will soon adopt a new name: “We do have a candidate name in mind, but we’re willing to steal anyone’s idea, if you have one,” he said to the conference attendees.

This kind of gathering is vital to health IT work, Kizer said, because the technology changes so quickly. “HIT continues to be a rapidly evolving field so we have to continually monitor and reassess what we’re doing, and where we’re going. That’s what we’re doing here,” Kizer said.

With something as complex and intricate as health information technology, he said, people can get wrapped up in their own little piece of science, and lose track of the larger IT picture, Kizer said.

“Technology is a means to an end — a tool to help us accomplish other things,” he said, such as superior patient care. “And you have to constantly remember what those things are.”

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