By Matthew Dublin
The ARGOS eHealth Consortium, a project funded by the European Commission to develop and promote common methods for responding to global "eHealth" (healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and communication) challenges, held a final meeting this week in Budapest. The ARGOS meeting was intended to foster agreement among health information technology, or HIT, leaders in Europe and the US. More than 75 participants attended the final meeting, including the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator on Health Information Technology.
The attendees finalized a series of recommendations in the following areas:
Interoperability in eHealth and HIT, and certification of Electronic Health Record systems, or 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 and its use to support diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases
Workforce and e-health capacity-building to address current and projected global shortages of individuals trained to develop, implement, maintain, and use HIT and EHRs
According to the American College of Medical Informatics board chair Nancy Lorenzi, a professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, "the world is increasingly more interconnected, and information and communication technologies are supporting these interconnections." Lorenzi added, "Cooperative efforts such as ARGOS support investigations to address health policy challenges in a world that is becoming virtually border-less in terms of health care."
The idea is that the ARGOS recommendations will ultimately be synthesized to develop coordinated policy actions to implement both the Europe and the US.
Meryl Bloomrosen, AMIA vice president for Policy and Government Relations, explained AMIA's role as the US convener of ARGOS, saying, "AMIA and its members have worked on interoperability, standards, benefits of health information technology, and workforce issues for decades. ... AMIA welcomes the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the US 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."
The "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed late last year by the vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to promote a common approach on the interoperability of electronic health records and on education programs for information technology and health professionals.