A researcher at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has been awarded $1.1 million to develop information-based tools to help primary care providers improve care for patients with chronic pain.
Additionally, the same researcher, Christopher Harle, has also been awarded a second grant, $1.9 million from the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with University of Florida researchers to develop software that will help patients better understand what they are granting access to when they approve use of their electronic health records (EHRs) for research purposes.
Harle is an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. For the first study, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Harle said he and his team would begin with the fact that primary care physicians have relatively poor experiences in providing care for chronic pain, and that patients often report low satisfaction with the chronic pain care they receive in primary care settings.
"Our goal is to use that information to design new prototypes for information technology-based clinical decision support," Harle said. An example of that may be finding that clinicians critically need better tools to collect and track patient reported outcomes for pain symptoms or day-to-day functionality and feelings of depression and anxiety that often come with pain. "Maybe we need better systems to collect that data and process it and communicate it to physicians in a way that they can take that information and modify treatment," he said.
Another useful tool may turn out to be better systems for capturing all of the data related to prescriptions for controlled substances, ensuring primary care physicians have at their fingertips a good way to assess patients' risk of abusing the medications, Harle said.
In the second study, researchers have proposed developing an interactive software tool they envision being used in doctors' offices in academic medical centers or other places where research takes place, Harle said.
The interactive software tool would essentially take a patient through an informed-consent process, giving the patient a better understanding of how their EHR information could be used in research so that patients can better provide an informed consent. "It's potentially much larger and more comprehensive than that file folder you might imagine sitting in your family doctor's filing cabinet," Harle noted.
An interactive software tool would ideally allow people to be more informed and actively consent to the use of their health information without overburdening the healthcare system by requiring significant human involvement.
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