I am David Hartzband, the newly-appointed director of technology research for the RCHN Community Health Foundation. That statement begs two questions: Who is David Hartzband? And why does the Foundation have a director of technology research? I’ll try to answer both here.

As a veteran of the technology industry, I’ve spent 25 years thinking about, teaching, designing, developing and advising on software and hardware technology. I’ve taught at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and I’ve worked at many successful technology companies overseeing collaboration, content management, emerging technologies and more. In 2004, I left a position at one of the technology companies to return to MIT, where I began working with several health care foundations on health care information technology. These included the California Healthcare Foundation, where I evaluated the technology being used to create the (now closed) RHIO in Santa Barbara County (CA) and this organization, the RCHN Community Health Foundation, where I conducted the technical evaluation of the (then) MDServe Practice Management product. MDServe was renamed Chorus and I was asked to join Chorus part-time as their chief technology officer in 2006. Additionally, I continue to work at MIT. My work there has most recently focused on how health care organizations adopt technology and what impedes and facilitates that adoption.

My role at the Foundation is to advance the organization’s technology vision, which centers on providing CHCs with affordable access to the technology infrastructure needed to provide clinical care and support operations. As you likely know, the Foundation supports CHCs through strategic investment, research, coalition building and advocacy. In addition to work in HIT, the Foundation is active in the areas of health care access and CHC stability, as well as affordable prescription drugs. The Foundation also looks to create partnerships with those that have similar goals to accomplish effective, large-scale programs. My work in HIT research fits into that overall plan.

CHCs need technology specifically focused on their unique needs. Chorus is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s support for CHC applications and infrastructure. The Foundation recognizes, though, that CHCs need more than infrastructure – they need to be both the beneficiary and the subject of research and analysis aimed at improving their clinical and business operations. They need substantial advocacy to stake their claim for support, and they need real dollars in the form of reimbursement and capital to implement and operate systems. The Foundation’s goal is to do meaningful work in all these areas so CHCs can truly benefit. I’m going to be focusing on performing research and bringing you information on appropriate and relevant technologies in an effort to meet this goal.

In keeping with our model as an operating Foundation, we are planning a technology research program in three parts:

Ongoing columns on health care information technology for CHCs
I will be writing about topics in HIT – from integration to usability to privacy – that are current and important to CHCs.

Research on hot-button HIT topics
Much of my time will be devoted to a formal research program. This will be focused on areas of long-term importance to CHCs; for example, such as:

  • Standards in HIT
  • The relationship among standards, certification, interoperability and integration in health care information products
  • The best use of both clinical information and clinical information systems for CHCs, and how these systems are evolving, now and in the future
  • The changing decision-making process in healthcare
  • My research will be published as reports that will address, among other things, how the findings specifically relate to improving operations for CHCs.

Presentations on findings
I will regularly present our findings to the CHC community so the material is available and usable.

The bottom line: the Foundation wants to keep you advised on technology usage and trends. We want to help you develop knowledge to influence policy and advocate for the best technologies to benefit your organizations. The goal is to help CHCs become more effective and improve clinical care and operations.

Stay tuned as we develop ideas, temper them with experience (both ours and yours) and make our discoveries accessible in useful ways. Please let us know what you think of our new program and tell us what topics or technologies are of interest to you.  Please email me at dhartzband@rchnfoundation.org.

David Hartzband, D.Sc. is the director of technology research at the RCHN Community Health Foundation.