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Physicians Get Aid for Electronic Records

Effort will boost quality, safety of health care in underserved communities

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February 16, 2010 | by Marla Paul

CHICAGO --- A new center led by Northwestern University and established with a $7,649,533 grant brings together Chicago-area partners to help Chicago physicians, many who work in underserved communities, begin to use electronic health records and to use them effectively.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides us with enormous opportunities—especially in the area of technology—and we have made it our priority to make sure Chicago receives the greatest possible benefit from it,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “If we want to improve the quality of life for everyone, we must work to make sure that businesses have access to 21st century technology. The Chicago Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center will support growth and streamline health records to enhance the quality, safety and accessibility of healthcare in our city.”

Northwestern has partnered with the Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services and a number of local and national collaborators to establish the Chicago Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (CHITREC). The center is funded by a Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act grant, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Some of the Chicago-area partners include:

  • The City of Chicago
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Children's Memorial Hospital
  • Sinai Health System
  • University of Chicago Medical Center
  • University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center
  • Cook County Health and Hospital Systems

"Our goal is to work with primary care physicians who practice in the City of Chicago to help them implement and use electronic health records in a meaningful way," says Abel Kho, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation and lead investigator. "Ultimately, we believe that increasing the percentage of primary care providers using electronic health records will improve the quality, safety and value of health care in Chicago."

Kho says the funding will enable CHITREC to support more than 80 percent of Chicago's primary care providers.  The current adoption rate for electronic health records in Chicago is under 30 percent of primary care providers.

Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius underscored the importance of electronic health records adoption among physicians in August 2009 when the funding availability was announced in Chicago.

Physicians interested in learning more about CHITREC, including how they can receive the technology and benefit from support, should visit http://www.chitrec.org for more information. A complete listing of national and local partners, as well as information for job seekers, is also available on the site.