New Johns Hopkins center will focus on population health data

July 26, 2012

A new center will focus on improving and expanding EHR use, e-health, and health information technology. The tools it develops may help you manage your patient population.

Public health agencies, accountable care organizations (ACOs), and health plans will soon have a new ally in the effort to improve population health. Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health is launching a new research and development center, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Information Technology (IT), or CPHIT (pronounced “see-fit”) that will focus on “improving and expanding” the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems, e-health, and health information technology (HIT).

Located in Bloomberg’s Department of Health Policy and Management, CPHIT will use the faculty’s robust knowledge base in public health, medicine, informatics, computer science, and business/systems engineering. The goal is to compile the most useful and up-to-date HIT information and data available anywhere. HIT developers then can use CPHIT’s resources to build systems and tools that strengthen the nation’s growing digital HIT infrastructure.

CPHIT’s creators want to “expand” the HIT industry’s focus. Currently, EHRs and decision-support tools for individual physicians receive most of the attention and resources. CPHIT believes, developing EHR-based tools that enable ACOs, health plans, and public health agencies to better manage population health is just as important.

“Most developers in this area have been focused on the clinical dimension for a long time,” says Jonathan Weiner, PhD, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “CPHIT will focus on linking, not just medical information, but also consumer health and environmental health information, then ensuring that it gets used meaningfully to improve a community’s health, the health of an ACO’s patients, [and] even the health of an entire [Patient-Centered Medical Home].

EHR and other HIT companies interested in developing solutions that support population health can gain access to CPHIT’s research and development data by allying with the center through its industry partners program.

“There’s a lot of good technology companies with some medical expertise,” Weiner says. “But they don’t usually have the social, the public health, the ethics, and the public policy [data]. All these other ingredients are essential.”

Johns Hopkins hopes to “create and assess” evidence and science, the latter of which, Weiner says, is basically untapped. “There’s a lot of good work,” he says, “but there’s a long way to go.”

Regarding the controversy over HIT’s return on investment and overall effectiveness, Weiner says, “We’ll be doing evaluations and research, and offering peer-reviewed articles and white papers.”

Weiner says CPHIT also hopes to be a “convener” and an “honest broker” to help bring disparate parties together and set agendas. “We have our own opinions, which have some value,” he says, “but more important [to CPHIT] is to coalesce the opinions of private and public sectors, so we’re going to hold workshops and conferences.”

CPHIT also plans to bring Johns Hopkins engineers and clinicians into the mix and establish relationships with companies to develop new or improved medical technologies, IT companies, and EHR vendors. “[Developing] good technology in the medical environment is really about collaboration,” Weiner says.

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