Connecting for Health: Accelerating the Effective Use of Information Technology in Health Care

Field of Work: Using information technology in health care.

Problem Synopsis: Health records do not typically follow people as they move from provider to provider for treatment of the same condition, let alone as they move to new geographic locations. Over the course of a person's life, medical records are developed and stored, mostly on paper, in various physicians' offices, pharmacies, hospitals and other organizations that have provided patient care. Physicians may find themselves providing care without always knowing what has been done earlier to a patient and by whom. Research indicates that these factors lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, higher costs, compromised quality of care and increased medical errors.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2004 to 2007, RWJF funded various aspects of the Markle Foundation's initiative Connecting for Health, which worked with more than 100 collaborators from government, health care, industry and consumer groups to establish policy guidelines and technical solutions to pave the way for nationwide electronic health information exchange. This initiative had the overarching goal of creating a secure environment in which personal medical information is available electronically when and where needed by patients and the clinicians who care for them.

Key Results

The Markle Foundation and its collaborators:

  • Produced a Roadmap Report in July 2004 with recommendations for developing a decentralized electronic health information network that uses the Internet and is based on a "Common Framework" of rules for data sharing.
  • Created a three-state prototype to test the Common Framework that was able to exchange electronic health information both within and among its three sites.
  • In 2006, released the "Connecting for Health Common Framework: Resources for Implementing Private and Secure Health Information Exchange". This compendium of 16 policy guides and technical documents was intended to help organizations develop their own decentralized health information networks using the Internet to exchange information following the Common Framework guidelines.
  • In 2005 and 2006, collaborated with several federal agencies in sponsoring two conferences, "Connecting Americans to Their Healthcare," that explored consumer engagement in health information exchange and specifically the use of electronic personal health records.

Key Findings

In October 2005, at the "Connecting Americans to Their Healthcare" conference, Public Opinion Strategies released the results of two surveys about personal health records and nationwide health information exchange. The surveys produced the following findings:

  • Two-thirds of the public (65%) are interested in accessing their own personal health information electronically.
  • More than seven out of 10 Americans support the creation of a nationwide health information exchange for doctors and patients.
  • Americans believe an electronic exchange of health information would enhance the quality and increase the efficiency of the health care system.
  • When ranking attributes for a proposed nationwide health information exchange, survey respondents rated security and privacy as the highest priorities.