AHRQ Awards Grant to U of Iowa to Research Health Data Exchange

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By Kate Monica

– A team of researchers spearheaded by faculty at the University of Iowa College of Public Health recently earned a research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to analyze patterns of health data exchange between providers.

The research project will center on health data exchange between EHR systems across care settings and facilities. University of Iowa Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy Xi Zhu will lead the study and examine EHR-based communication among virtual care teams. Researchers will also analyze the relationship between EHR communication networks and care quality.

“Electronic health records systems have been widely adopted throughout the U.S. health care system, and they are changing the way health care professionals deliver care and communicate with each other,” said Zhu.

“Today’s health care professionals often work as virtual care teams – a variety of practitioners providing care to the same patients, but working at different times and locations – all connected through the EHR,” he added. “Yet, it’s not clear how the EHR is impacting communication and teamwork among them and how those factors might affect the quality of care that patients receive.”

Researchers part of the project will work to develop new methods for measuring EHR-based communication between providers and analyze the relationship between provider communication and patient health outcomes. The team will assess patient health outcomes through indicators including number of hospital readmissions, emergency department visits, and mortality rates.

“We are very excited about the potential of this research to generate new evidence to support health IT interventions for team-based care delivery,” Zhu said.

A related pilot study slated for publication in August 2019 outlines the utility of leveraging EHR data to measure communication networks between virtual care teams. The pilot project signaled that variations in EHR-based communication networks are closely associated with differences in clinical outcomes in a sample of 100 colorectal cancer patients.

“This study demonstrates that it is feasible to use EHR access-log data to measure and examine communication networks in virtual care teams,” wrote researchers in the study. “The proposed methods captured salient communication patterns in care teams that were associated with patients’ clinical differences.”

Other research team members include UI Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Daniel Sewell and investigators part of the Virginia Commonwealth University and University of California at Davis.

AHRQ has issued several grants to individuals and institutions to promote advancements in health IT use and data access throughout 2019.

Earlier this year, AHRQ awarded a physician with a three-year, $1.14 million grant to build a clinical decision support system designed to reduce provider frustrations during care delivery.

Thomas McGinn, MD, will work to improve the clinical efficiency and usability of clinical decision support systems to ensure providers can access personalized health data quickly and easily.

A professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, McGinn serves as senior vice president and deputy physician-in-chief at Northwell Health. He worked with a team of clinical researchers at the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Health Innovations and Outcomes Research (CHIOR) to study, test, and distribute clinical decision support in EHR systems.

“When available at the point of care, clinical decision support allows physicians to blend medical acumen and evidence in real time,” said McGinn.

“With AHRQ’s support, we can design a system that targets and triggers the appropriate clinical prediction rules for the right people, at the right moment, incorporating patient-specific information and bringing evidence-based medicine directly to the point of care,” McGinn added.

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