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US and European informatics leaders advance transatlantic cooperation on health IT policy

The final meeting in a series held by the ARGOS eHealth Consortium, a project funded by the European Commission (EC) to develop and promote common methods for responding to global eHealth challenges, recently concluded in Budapest amidst greater mutual understanding and stronger agreement among a broad set of leaders in Europe and the U.S., all of whom are responsible for expanding the use of health information technology (HIT). Research in informatics in biomedicine and health demonstrates that effective use of HIT supports improved health outcomes; the ARGOS participants believe that expanded and coordinated use of HIT will have a deep impact on the health and well-being of a broad swath of populations here and in Europe.

AMIA Board Chair Nancy M. Lorenzi, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, observed, "The world is increasingly more interconnected, and information and communication technologies are supporting these interconnections." Dr. Lorenzi added, "Cooperative efforts such as ARGOS support investigations to address health policy challenges in a world that is becoming virtually borderless in terms of health care."

More than 75 participants attended the final ARGOS meeting, including leaders from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the National Coordinator on Health Information Technology (HHS/ONC). The group finalized the project's recommendations in key areas:

  • Interoperability in eHealth and HIT, and certification of Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs);
  • Defining a common, consistent approach and identifying indicators and tools for measuring adoption, usage, and benefits of HIT and eHealth;
  • Simulating human physiology and diseases with a focus on development of the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) and its use to support diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases.
  • Workforce and ehealth capacity-building to address current and projected global shortages of individuals trained to develop, implement, maintain and use HIT and EHRs.

The ARGOS recommendations will be synthesized to support common, coordinated policy actions and implementation measures in both the EU and the U.S.

ARGOS participant Meryl Bloomrosen, AMIA Vice President for Policy and Government Relations, explained AMIA's role as the U.S. convener of ARGOS, saying, "AMIA and its members have worked on interoperability, standards, benefits of health information technology, and workforce issues for decades." She added, "AMIA welcomes the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the EU because it promotes a common approach on the interoperability of EHRs and education programs for information technology and health professionals. The more interoperability that exists in health IT, the greater the consistency is in quality of care delivered to patients." She also thanked Ilias Iakovidis, deputy head of ICT for Health, at the EC's Directorate-General Information Society and Media, for allowing AMIA to provide subject-matter expertise as part of the shared global policy-making efforts.

This health-centric partnership between the EU and the U.S. sends a strong signal-- in support of a global approach to HIT--that common interoperability solutions bring opportunities that benefit patients, health systems, and the marketplace. In addition, eHealth technologies reduce medical costs and foster independent living-- key objectives of Europe's digital agenda.

Publication of ARGOS proceedings is expected later this year.


Contact: Nancy Light
American Medical Informatics Association

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