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UMD Experts to Expand IT for Public Health in Montgomery County, Md.

December 11, 2013

Greg Muraski, Smith School of Business, 301-405-5283
Kelly Blake, School of Public Health, 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Improving health and reducing health care costs nationwide depends on effective coordination between the organizations that treat patients (primary care providers) and those that work to prevent disease and promote health (public health practitioners).

Experts from the University of Maryland School of Public Health (SPH) and Robert H. Smith School of Business are partnering with Montgomery County, Md., to explore how public health and clinical care programs can most effectively collaborate through information technology systems.
A 24-month project is underway, supported by a $200,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant awarded via the Public Health Services and Systems Research program. Professors Ritu Agarwal, the Robert H. Smith Dean's Chair of Information Systems and founding director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS), and Robert S. Gold, chair of the SPH's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, are leading the study in collaboration with the Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County and Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. The team will be coordinating with the Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients and Maryland's State Health Improvement Process.

Researchers from CHIDS and the SPH will develop and evaluate a benchmarking tool ("maturity index") to better understand how disparate public health information technology systems being used by communities, including electronic health records, public health reporting data systems (such as surveillance systems) and ancillary systems (such as health information exchanges) may be adopted, integrated and effectively used.

"The goal is better care coordination of and insight into the diverse set of health and human needs important to wellness," said CHIDS Deputy Director Kenyon Crowley. "By putting patients' holistic care at the center with support from information management systems, we hope to foster better health outcomes in individuals, families and the population as a whole."

The project's focus will be on how this enhanced system integration can improve access to and utilization of behavioral health and human services in Montgomery County. Research findings are expected to provide valuable information for public health practitioners and policy-makers that can be used to improve quality, efficiency, and equity in public health practice with the goal of improving population health nationwide.
"We have the opportunity to use public health IT to connect those who have previously fallen through the cracks with the services that they need," says Dr. Gold. "The electronic care record systems in Montgomery County are already making a difference in assisting people with complex health needs, and we are looking to expand upon this success. We can pull in data from public health surveillance systems, social service agencies and health information exchanges to optimize our ability to improve behavioral and mental health."

Follow the project's blog at: http://blogs.rhsmith.umd.edu/phit/

CHIDS works in collaboration with industry and federal, state, and local government affiliates to research, analyze, and develop solutions to challenges surrounding the introduction and integration of information and decision technologies into the healthcare system. The research at CHIDS seeks to understand how digital technologies can be more effectively deployed to address outcomes such as patient safety, healthcare quality, efficiency in healthcare delivery, and a reduction in health disparities. The center offers the benefit of a world-class research staff and renowned scholars in the economic, social, behavioral, and managerial aspects of technology implementation, adoption, use, and return on investment. CHIDS serves as a focal point for thought leadership around the topic of health information and decision systems.


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