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UT Pilots Health IT for Social Services, Healthcare Interoperability

Dell Medical School at UT is piloting an ONC-funded health IT implementation that aims to support interoperability for social services referrals. 

Dell Medical School at the University of Texas (UT) is piloting health IT that aims to enhance social services referral interoperability between clinics and service providers according to reporting from The Austin American Statesman.

The health IT seeks to help healthcare providers to make social services referrals within their EHR workflow. The agency can then notify the provider that the patient has been connected and is receiving services, or that it was unable to help the patient.

Austin nonprofit Integrated Care Collaboration is helping create the interoperability tool. People's Community Clinic, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Austin, and Integral Care, the mental health authority of Travis County, will pilot the technology at the beginning of 2022.

In 2023, Dell Medical School will roll out the health IT in El Paso and New Orleans to ensure it has a universal application rather than just working in Central Texas.

Anjum Khurshid, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of data integration in the department of population health at Dell Medical School, is leading the interoperability work.

"We're very excited to give our community a chance to address the needs of the underserved community," Khurshid told the news outlet. "We have to build this for those who need it the most: the underrepresented.”

On the patient side, Dell Medical School is building an app that will allow patients to log into all their patient portals in one place, officials said. This tool will allow patients to view all of their patient portal information, including social services referrals.

Officials noted that researchers are designing the health IT to minimize clinician burden by eliminating the need to fill out the same information on multiple forms repeatedly. The clinic will be able to send all of the patient's information to multiple social services providers.  

Khurshid said that ultimately, researchers want the tool to be scalable and standardized to any community that wants it.

The ONC funded the project with a $998,118 grant through its 2021 Leading Edge Acceleration Projects (LEAP) in Health IT program.

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