To the Editor:
In their July 2010 commentary about academia and opportunities in health informatics and E-Health, Smith and Agresta1 call for a stronger academic voice in the national policy and implementation debates surrounding health information technology (HIT) and E-Health. They note a preponderance of “those with business, political, or advocacy interests” represented on national strategy and advisory groups for HIT and E-Health, and a lack of involvement of academic faculty, primary care physicians, pharmacists, nurses, or health services researchers.
We do not disagree. But we argue that academic medicine is doing more in HIT and E-Health than meets the eye.
* HIT is a major discipline and a major area of knowledge for health professions students in academic health centers across the country.
* HIT perspectives are being represented by faculty in a number of medical schools and academic health centers. At our university, faculty carry out this function, both as individuals and also collectively, through the advocacy of their professional associations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).
* There are four university faculty (including one from our university) represented on the federal advisory HIT Policy and Standards Committees.2
* AMIA recommendations for research dissemination and decision support for clinical practice3 are an indication of academic medicine's engagement in the national HIT policy agenda.
* Over 40 degree-granting programs support the training of HIT experts in health.4
* Much HIT work takes place at a state level. For example, our university, a public land-grant institution, is significantly involved in the state's E-Health Initiative,5 a critical “laboratory” for negotiating the complex relationships among multiple stakeholders, including consumers, and for giving attention to the special needs of rural hospitals, clinics, and practitioners. Faculty from across our health professions schools, including those with appointments in our Institute for Health Informatics,6 are involved in this work.
Despite the activities listed above, much more needs to be done, and we share Smith and Agresta's concerns. Increased leadership in HIT by health professionals and providers is one of the factors needed to ensure that academic medicine has a critical role in the reshaping of the health system.
Frank B. Cerra, MD
Senior vice president for health sciences and dean, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connie W. Delaney, PhD, RN
Dean, University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and director, Biomedical Health Informatics, Institute for Health Informatics, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Linda A. Watson, MLS
Director, Health Sciences Libraries, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
3 Bloomrosen M, Detmer D. Informatics, evidence-based care, and research; implications for national policy: A report of the AMIA health policy conference. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2010;17:115–123.
6 University of Minnesota Institute for Health Informatics. http://www.ihi.umn.edu
. Accessed November 30, 2010.