Letter: Programs to improve health

Public health investments are a critical component in creating a healthier state, and the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to reshaping health care in our state, is pleased to partner with the American Public Health Association in recognizing National Public Health Week (NPHW).

Observed April 1-7, NPHW serves to promote public health and to highlight issues important to improving health. This year, the theme, “Public Health is ROI: Save Lives, Save Money,” champions the value of preventative health care and well-supported public health systems in preventing disease, saving lives and curbing health-care spending.

The Quality Forum is dedicated to improving public health through health information technology (IT) advancements such as electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs will provide our residents with access to the information necessary to make informed health decisions, and their physicians with the information required to provide safer, more-coordinated care. In addition, EHRs are designed to help reduce health-care costs by eliminating the need for redundant medical tests and paperwork.

We have also established a statewide health information exchange that enables our health-care providers and hospitals to share critical health information. The Louisiana Health Information Exchange (LaHIE) now has participation agreements with more than 130 hospitals, providers, clinics, school-based health centers, home health agencies and other health-care companies across the state. It has been nationally recognized twice in the past six months for advancing improvements in health care through health information technology.

LaHIE supports public health reporting by connecting providers with organizations such as the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the Louisiana Immunization Network for Kids Statewide. This achievement strengthens the state’s ability to quickly identify and respond to threats to public health.

In addition, in the summer of 2013, LaHIE will launch a new level of services focused on analytics, including population health management and point of care decision support. Using this technology, LaHIE will identify high-volume diagnoses and potentially preventable emergency department visits. These services will be piloted in the Baton Rouge area as part of the Healthy Baton Rouge Program, and will play an integral role in improving public health at the local level.

By making these key investments in public health through health IT, Louisiana exemplifies NPHW’s theme of saving lives and saving money.

Cindy Munn, executive director

Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum

Baton Rouge