Coming to Grips With a Potential e-Health Equity Gap
Advances in health information technologies are widely regarded as key enablers of overall health care quality improvement, including their potentially vital role in reducing health disparities. But work underway at Kaiser Permanente and elsewhere suggests that, if HIT’s benefits are available mainly to those who have the technical access, skills, supports, and incentives to use them, these tools could inadvertently increase existing health disparities.
Our work to better understand and address these issues began last Spring when Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Policy joined with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and AMIA, the association for informatics professionals, to sponsor a two-day roundtable, entitled “HIT’s Impact on Health Disparities: Will It Help or Harm?”
(See www.amia.org/disparities-roundtable for a list of participants and a background paper on the issue.) Since then, Kaiser Permanente analysts have been examining demographic data on the more than 3.5 million registered users of the organization’s internet-enabled patient portal, My Health Manager, to better understand its positive or negative impacts on e-health equity. An e-health equity briefing paper for Kaiser Permanente leadership is forthcoming, and a journal article synthesizing the March 2011 roundtable is in preparation.