AHRQ launches health care IT resource center

"How to start a community health network"

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality launched a learning resource center today for health care providers seeking help in adopting information technology.

The Web site (http://www.healthit.ahrq.gov) includes a library with links to more than 5,000 health care IT resources identified by AHRQ experts and by partner contributors, such as professional societies and nonprofit organizations. For example, under the laws and standards section users can find sample legal documents, and under the organization strategy heading ideas about workflow redesign are available.

The information in the technology section is organized by topic areas such as clinical decision support, electronic health records and health information exchanges.

AHRQ will also give health care providers an IT evaluation toolkit, a summary of key topics, such as clinical decision support and health information exchanges, and other resources providing current health IT activities, and funding opportunities.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, AHRQ director, said the goal of the new learning resource center is to "help health care providers at the ground level learn from each other's real-world experience and give them easy access to the best information available."

Clancy said, "Providers’, especially those in smaller practices, adoption of health IT can be challenging on many levels. Adoption of health IT will be too slow if providers have to reinvent the wheel one by one.”

She added, “This shared learning tool brings the lessons of experience together in one place, so we can help providers avoid problems and achieve greater benefits when they make their move to health IT."

Clancy emphasized that AHRQ is moving early to create Web-based health IT learning structure. In the first year of the AHRQ project, the resource center site has served as an internal communication tool for participants in the AHRQ initiative and other involved agencies.

Rather than wait for completed findings, AHRQ is creating the public resource now to capture lessons learned as they emerge.

"This is a learn-as-you-go project," Clancy said. "The president and [Health and Human Services] Secretary Mike Leavitt have made health IT adoption an urgent priority. We're not waiting for perfect information. We'll make good information available as we learn it."

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