The federal government's point man on health IT this week urged vendors not to create a new "digital divide" by overlooking health care providers in minority communities.
"Electronic health records possess the ability to help improve both the quality and efficiency of medical care accessible by minorities," Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health information technology, wrote in a letter to the vendor community in his Coordinator's Corner blog. Yet providers serving uninsured black and Hispanic or Latino populations are less likely to have adopted electronic health records, he noted.
Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by chronic illness, Blumenthal wrote, citing data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Those illnesses, he said, contribute to "intolerably high" mortality and morbidity rates.
"It is absolutely necessary that the leading EHR vendors work together, continuing to provide EHR adoption opportunities for physicians and other healthcare providers working within underserved communities of color," Blumenthal said. He urged Regional Extension Centers and EHR vendors to coordinate with the government to "focus substantial efforts on these priority populations."
The stated intent of the letter, co-signed by Dr. Garth N. Graham, director of the Office of Minority Health, is "to make sure that health IT vendors include providers who serve minority communities in their sales and marketing efforts."