Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Commentary: Reducing Health Care Disparities Through HIT

M. Chris Gibbons, MD, MPH
Associate Director, Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute
Assistant Professor, Public Health and Medicine
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Over the past decade a rapidly expanding body of literature has demonstrated the existence of disparities in health and health care. While consensus has not emerged regarding the causes of disparities, they are generally thought to be related to sociocultural, behavioral, economic, environmental, biologic, or societal factors.

To effectively address disparities, several authorities have suggested the need for greater information technology research and investments. As information technology plays an ever-increasing role in Americans' economic and social lives, the potential health implications of these findings need to be more clearly evaluated because the prospect that some people will be left behind in the information age could leave some groups less able to take advantage of cutting edge innovations and thereby increase rather than decrease disparities.

Recent advances in the computer sciences and information technology fields have spawned several methodological advances in the biological and molecular sciences. In like manner, the behavioral and population sciences may be on the verge of a similar information technology–based scientific revolution. New eHealth solutions may soon permit the real-time integrative utilization of vast amounts of behavioral-, biological-, and community-level information in ways not previously possible. Technology may also function as an interventional agent to help treat disease and address disparities, not just as an analytic agent to enhance our understanding. As such, we may one day be able to deliver high quality care to anybody, anytime, anywhere, and significantly reduce or even eliminate disparities in the process.

To access a podcast of Dr. Gibbon's recent presentation at the Jefferson School of Population Health, please visit the following link and click on the 'download' button on the right side of the page: