DC Roundtable: Information Technology and Community-Based Organizations

By Ty Johnson

From enhanced interactions with older adults and their caregivers to sharing data via health information exchanges, technology is changing how community-based organizations (CBOs) provide supports and services to their clients. The Aging and Disability Business Institute (Business Institute) aims to ensure that CBOs have tools and resources they can use to put today’s innovations to work.

Presented by the Business Institute, in partnership with the American Society on Aging (ASA), September’s roundtable, Preparing Community-Based Organization Leadership Teams to Tackle Health Information Technology (HIT) Challenges was funded by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), through a grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL). n4a also leads the Business Institute.

More than 60 people attended the roundtable, held on September 18 at the Samuel J. Simmons NCBA (National Caucus on Black Aging) Estates. Attendees learned how to envision technology solutions that can improve health outcomes and how to articulate the technological needs of CBOs.

Leigh Ann Eagle and Sue Lachenmyer of the Living Well Center for Excellence at MAC, Inc. in Salisbury, MD, discussed how the evidence-based programs in their state are connected to the Chesapeake Regional Informational System for our Patients (CRISP), the regional health information exchange (HIE) for Maryland; Washington, DC; and West Virginia, which helps keep service providers focused on population health.

“Patient-specific information demonstrates the value of prevention and self-management,” Eagle said, adding that Maryland’s unique model has led to health care cost savings and a reduction in hospital readmissions. This real-time exchange of information allows for connections between doctors, CBOs and others to ensure a specific patient’s data is available to all who treat the patient.

Ginna Baik of CDW Healthcare explained how embracing and utilizing technology to create the solutions you’re looking for can be observed in the world’s fast food giant, McDonald’s, as the free wireless internet at the restaurants has turned some of its locations into gathering places for guests and workers. But those innovations haven’t stopped McDonald’s from cooking burgers—and they shouldn’t stop CBOs in their missions of serving older adults and people with disabilities in their communities.

“Technology, in this case, is a tool. It’s not a replacement for all the things you do,” Baik said. “It’s there to enable.”

Baik introduced Carrie Shaw, founder of Embodied Labs in Los Angeles, who explained how a pair of eyeglasses she created as a teenager helped caregivers empathize with her mother’s limited vision. Shaw’s prototype blocked the same side of vision for each eye to mimic her mother’s blind spots, leading caregivers to understand that they should approach her from her good side where she could see them.  That prototype has evolved, now, into Shaw’s virtual reality simulator, which allows users to experience the same types of visual distractions that someone with Alzheimer’s might experience.

The final panel, featuring staff from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discussed policies, standards and opportunities for CBOs to partner with their State Medicaid Agencies to access  Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act funding to develop shared solutions and connections with their state’s HIE.

Marisa Scala-Foley, Director of the Aging and Business Institute at n4a, said after the roundtable event that interest in health information technology is on the rise at CBOs nationwide.

“We’re seeing a lot of momentum,” she said. “CBOs are thinking about how the services they provide and the information they collect adds value to health care and long-term services and supports delivery systems nationwide.”

Access the slides from this presentation here.