May 2007 MedBytes: Health Information Technology

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This month's Texas Medicine  cover story reports on health information technology and policymakers' push for physicians to adopt electronic medical record systems. Web sites on the subject abound. Here's a list of resources that will keep you up to date, while helping you embrace technology in your medical practice.

TexasMedical Association
TMA's Web site boasts resources you can use to learn more about health information technology (HIT) and topics relating to implementing new systems in your practice, such as interoperability, electronic medical record selection, financing, vendors, and quality. For a comprehensive examination of HIT adoption, visit  www.texmed.org, scroll down to Practice Management, and select Health Information Technology from the menu. Organized by topic, the HIT section of the site is straightforward and painless when it comes to navigating. Simply click on a corresponding link to be directed to useful reports, guidelines, Web sites, lists, and articles. And to aid you in getting started, the Services section of the site will point you toward the technology readiness assessment. This TMA consulting service identifies ways for new and existing practices to increase operational efficiencies through the use of new technologies. To find out more about TMA Practice Consulting, click on Consulting in the Practice Management section of the site.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) National Resource Center for Health Information Technology is a portal for technical support and serves as an online repository of key initiatives to advance the adoption of information technology. At  healthit.ahrq.gov, you can read about AHRQ-funded projects by clicking on Texas from the U.S. map on the home page. Financing IT systems is a hot topic, and the site's Funding Opportunities section opens to an abundance of resources on available grants, contracts, and pilot programs. The Knowledge Library is a special feature designated by a magnifying glass icon. Click to access more than 6,000 resources in organizational strategy, technology, value of HIT, laws and standards, organizations, and operations. With highlights, key topics, featured tools, and upcoming events, the AHRQ site has a lot to offer. To avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of resources, start with subjects on the home page.

American  Academy of Family Physicians
A colorful chart outlining the steps involved in electronic health record (EHR) adoption is the focal point on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Center for Health Information Technology home page. At  www.centerforhit.org, family physicians and other health care practitioners will find a concentrated outline of information on medical office information technology. Getting started, finding the right EHR, implementing a system, and ensuring viability are open to all users. As you navigate through the user-friendly, step-by-step Web pages, many of the topics link to tutorials, homework, and related readings for a more in-depth understanding on a specific subject. But on this site, membership comes with privileges: You must be an AAFP member to access the physician product reviews, readiness assessment, EMR e-mail discussion list, and other premium tools. One of the site's more unique features is the CME section, found below the EHR chart. With four modules on HIT hardware and network basics, office redesign and workflow, selecting an EHR, and implementing your EHR, this educational component of the site is useful for physicians and office staff.

eHealth Initiative
The eHealth Initiative Web site,  www.ehealthinitiative.org, is chock-full of resources health organizations, clinicians, and physician groups can draw on in their quest to embrace technology and transform how they record medical data. From the home page, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the eHealth Initiative and the Foundation for eHealth Initiative by clicking on the About tab. Links will guide you through the group's mission, leadership, members, and other general information. Next, explore the site's Connecting Communities Toolkit. Registration to use the toolkit is free, and you can participate in seven modules that cover getting organized, communication and outreach, value creation and financing, practice transformation, policies for information sharing, technology, and public policy and advocacy. Within each module, you'll link to introductory overviews, common principles, a roadmap for implementation, community experiences, a glossary, and resources. The  eHealth Initiative Web site is hearty. Allow yourself some time to explore the group's policy landscape, programs, and advocacy center.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest toTexas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email Crystal Conde. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  

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