AMIA 2003 Spring Congress - Bridging the Digital Divide: Informatics and Vulnerable Populations:
A recent Institute of Medicine report and other studies present overwhelming evidence that health care disparities continue to exist in the United States along ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and other demographic lines. Groups who find themselves on the wrong end of this spectrum experience higher mortality rates from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and HIV infections. "Healthy People 2010" has identified the elimination of health disparities among different segments of the population as one of the overarching goals for the next decade. A key to closing disparities in health care lies in allowing consumers to take greater control of their own health care decision-making. Health information and communication technologies are instruments that have tremendous potential for empowering consumers to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for improving and maintaining their health. Technology can improve the availability and quality of this information to the underserved. While such technologies have changed the nature of health care in the United States in recent decades, our vulnerable and underserved populations - those who may be low income, homeless, disabled, and many women and people of color on the other side of what can best be termed a digital divide in health care information - have not been able to participate in, nor reap the benefits of, the consumer health information revolution. The aim of this working AMIA Spring Congress will be to focus on the use of information and communication technologies to enhance the health and provision of health care to underserved populations. The Congress will bring together experts in medical informatics, health care professionals, policy-makers, researchers, health care industry leaders, consumer advocates, and others specializing in health care provision to underserved populations to address how such technologies can be deployed to help improve access to, and quality of, health information and health care for the underserved.