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No child left behind? Not when it comes to health IT

June 20, 2008
by kate
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When I was visiting my parents and my 14-year-old sister Annie last weekend, my Mom filled me in on the ordeal she went through after Annie, an all-star soccer player, broke her arm during a game. Between the follow-up visits for the arm (which she inconveniently injured on a day when her regular doctor’s office was closed) and the pre-high school physicals, they had to visit a few different physicians, and my Mom had to make countless phone calls trying to transfer Annie’s medical records from one office to the next.

What they went through is not unusual. When it comes to adopting health IT measures, pediatrics as a specialty is behind the curve. We know that certain areas of the country (ahem, Massachusetts) are quicker than others when it comes to implementing EMRs, ePrescribing and other technologies, and it only makes sense that certain areas of care are quicker on the draw. But the idea that the specialty involving the care of infants and children isn’t taking advantage of all that healthcare technology has to offer, at least when it comes to physician practices (hospital numbers are more encouraging), is unacceptable to me. Why on earth is such a vulnerable patient population missing out on significant advances in the way that care is practiced? It boggles my mind.

The good news is that measures are being taken to reverse this course and set pediatrics IT on the right track, according to an article published on the Government Health IT Website. Vendors, government agencies, advocacy groups and children’s hospitals are collaborating on a number of initiatives designed to widen the exchange of pediatric data, which could in turn reduce health risks. The Alliance for Pediatric Quality recently worked with HL7 to create a Child Health Functional Profile, which mandates that IT systems include immunization schedules, drug dosage calculations based on body weight, pediatric data norms for vital signs, lab test results and body measurements, and privacy protections for children and families.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has chimed in as well, developing the Partnership for Policy Implementation to integrate health IT functions into pediatric clinical guidelines. Finally, last summer, the Certification Commission for Healthcare IT formed a new Child Health Expert Panel to create certification standards for pediatric medicine.

Each of these initiatives is a step in the right direction. But will they help to increase IT uptake in pediatric care? I certainly hope so. And if they don’t, I think we need to take a good, hard look at this issue.

If you saw the way my tough little sister played soccer, you’d feel the same way.

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