Using information technology to promote health equity -- update in Medical Care

May 16, 2019

May 16 , 2019 - An innovative health information technology (IT) program helps primary care providers to detect and manage depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in traumatized refugees, reports a study in a special June supplement to Medical Care. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Published today, the supplement presents new research and commentaries on the use of health IT to reduce disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. "Health IT has tremendous potential for promoting health equity for racial and ethnic minorities as well as other disparity populations," according to an editorial by Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues.

New Strategies for Using Health IT to Reduce Healthcare Disparities

The supplement collects 12 original research papers, reporting on innovative health IT approaches to promote health equity in populations at risk of disparities. Dara H. Sorkin, PhD, of University of California Irvine and colleagues evaluate a health IT intervention to improve detection and treatment of mental health disorders in Cambodian refugees at two Southern California clinics. Many refugees from Cambodia and other countries have experienced war-related trauma, placing them at high risk for depression and PTSD.

The three-part intervention included an iPad tool to screen for symptoms of depression and PTSD in Cambodian American adults. In addition, primary care professionals were able to access an interactive tutorial on providing "culturally competent, trauma-informed mental health care" for individuals exposed to extreme war trauma. The intervention also included a mobile app providing evidence-based clinical algorithms and guidelines.

Electronic mental health screening suggested that depression might be present in about two-thirds of Cambodian refugees and PTSD in about one-third. Primary care providers assigned to the health IT program were about six times  more likely to diagnose depression and 20 times more likely to diagnose PTSD.

The health IT intervention also led to higher rates of evidence-based and trauma-informed care. Increased use of evidence-based care led to decreased depression symptoms at 12 weeks, although PTSD outcomes were not significantly affected. Dr. Sorkin and colleagues conclude, "This innovative approach offers the potential for training primary care providers to diagnose and treat traumatized patients, the majority of whom seek mental health care in primary care."

The supplement also includes five editorials and perspective pieces, providing expert insights on the role of health IT in promoting health equity in a wide range of underserved groups: racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, rural or urban populations, veterans, and many others. Dr. Pérez-Stable writes, "Incorporating modern information systems into an ambulatory care practice has the potential to guide population-based health care to maximize access, comprehensiveness, coordination, and quality."

He highlights the emergence of the electronic health record (EHR) as powerful new tool to help meet the NIMHD's goal: "to promote scientific discovery in an America where all persons have the same opportunity to live a long and healthy life." Dr. Pérez-Stable concludes, "The EHR has changed the processes of clinical care and the opportunity to leverage these technological changes to promote health equity is here for the taking."
Click here to read June's Medical Care Supplement

DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001112

About Medical Care

Rated as one of the top ten journals in health care administration, Medical Care is devoted to all aspects of the administration and delivery of health care. This scholarly journal publishes original, peer-reviewed papers documenting the most current developments in the rapidly changing field of health care. Medical Care provides timely reports on the findings of original investigations into issues related to the research, planning, organization, financing, provision, and evaluation of health services. In addition, numerous special supplementary issues that focus on specialized topics are produced with each volume. Medical Care is the official journal of the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the health, tax & accounting, finance, risk & compliance, and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services.

Wolters Kluwer, headquartered in the Netherlands, reported 2017 annual revenues of €4.4 billion. The company serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide.

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students with advanced clinical decision support, learning and research and clinical intelligence. For more information about our solutions, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.

Wolters Kluwer Health

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