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CHIC seeks to improve patient outcomes while preventing overuse of health care services


INDIANAPOLIS — This month marks the first anniversary of an Indianapolis research center that is investigating how to use electronic health information exchange and physician-to-physician as well as doctor-patient communication tools to meet the challenges of improving health-related collaborations and eliminating duplication in health care services.

The Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Center for Health Information and Communication at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis is led by Regenstrief Institute investigator Michael Weiner, M.D., MPH, associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“Veterans, like many other Americans, receive medical care across multiple sites and from a variety of specialists,” Dr. Weiner said. “Often, these sites and individuals don’t coordinate care. The Center for Health Information and Communication, known as CHIC, is uniquely positioned to ask and answer complex questions about how veterans use not only the VA but also the many other health facilities nationwide where nearly half of all veterans receive some or even all of their care.

“Much of the insight we are gaining will be applicable to people in other health systems that, like the VA, value efficiency, organizational integration and, above all, improved patient care.”

In addition to his CHIC responsibilities, Dr. Weiner is director of health services research at the Regenstrief Institute and of the IU Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research.

CHIC researchers are trained in primary care, neurology, pain, cancer, mental health, medical sociology, clinical psychology, education, communication, medical informatics, human factors engineering and other fields.

Areas of specific concentration include enhancing patient safety and outcomes by improving information exchange from one clinical team to another and one facility to another, such as during patients’ transitions from hospital to home or a nursing facility. Focuses include access to care, quality-of-care standards, disease screening, human-computer interaction and doctor-patient communication.

As they seek to improve clinical outcomes while preventing overuse of health care services, CHIC researchers are generating knowledge about the design and usefulness of innovative approaches to health information technology and communication.

CHIC is one of only 19 centers nationwide funded by five-year grants from the Veterans Administration Health Services Research and Development Service Center of Innovation program.

Dr. Weiner previously served as principal investigator of the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice in Indianapolis. He said CHIC will draw upon previous experience and strengths in health information acquisition and exchange from the VA and from the Regenstrief Institute’s 45 years of work in acquisition, organization and exchange of massive amounts of data — including patients’ histories, medical evaluations, test results, diagnoses, treatments and follow-up — for individuals and populations.

“We are engaged in research that aims to have implications for medical care throughout the country,” Dr. Weiner said. “Managing and securely sharing data, eliminating blanket recommendations for procedures that do not benefit every patient, understanding care differences at various facilities and ascertaining the best care are among our goals.”

CHIC researchers include 15 Regenstrief Institute investigators — Dr. Weiner and Matthew Bair, M.D.; Dawn Bravata, M.D.; Teresa Damush, Ph.D.; Brian Dixon, Ph.D.; Richard Frankel, Ph.D.; David Haggstrom, M.D.; Thomas Imperiale, M.D.; Jacob Kean, Ph.D.; Kurt Kroenke, M.D.; Marianne Matthias, Ph.D.; Edward Miech, Ed.D.; Samantha Outcalt, Ph.D.; Alissa Russ, Ph.D. and Linda S. Williams, M.D.

An internationally respected informatics and health care research organization, the Regenstrief Institute is recognized for its role in improving quality of care, increasing efficiency of health care delivery, preventing medical errors and enhancing patient safety. Regenstrief investigators also hold faculty appointments at IU School of Medicine and other Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis schools. In addition to the VA, the Regenstrief Institute is closely associated with the IU School of Medicine and Eskenazi Health.

“For many years, the VA has been a national leader in not only developing useful and usable health information systems but also in actively using them to enhance the quality, efficiency and outcomes of care in the VA health system,” said Regenstrief Institute president and CEO William M. Tierney, M.D., associate dean for clinical effectiveness research at the IU School of Medicine. “CHIC is another example of the VA’s putting resources into this effort to be at the head of the curve for its deserving patients.”