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Nutrition Informatics Blog

A Navigation System for Health Care?

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Ok, if the truth be known, I left the AMIA Annual Symposium here is Washington, DC late one night—actually after helping with a panel on Consumer Health Informatics. I offered to drive one of the speakers home, and while chatting away AND backing out of a very tight parking spot in an underground parking garage, I managed to do what I had been SO careful not to do before. I could list out my justifications on why it happened…but blogs aren’t supposed to be that long.  Luckily it was only a car and a large concrete pillar which was entirely too close to the parking space and very poorly…OK—no excuses. 

While my car is being repaired, I have been using a loaner car (which my children LOVE and dread the day my old car is back.) Go figure. I cannot wait to get my car back. Why?  I will make no apologies—in spite of shameless teasing by a dear friend--my navigation system (which the loaner does not have.) I drive to locations in Northern Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland during the course of my work—and depend steadfastly on my navigation system.  The fact that it routes me an odd path sometimes or a occasionally says that I am on an undocumented route is ok.  What it does is provide options, “hand holds” me through some confusing spots and communicates (although I turned off the voice the first week.) If I choose, I can tell how long it will take me to get home, which roads are one-way and even where the next ice cream spot is (that’s a long story, though.)  I have modified my trips while I do not have the navigation system—driving home alone late at night from a location I do not know well has an entirely different impact.  So what does this have to do with health care—and in particular the HITECH Act?  The HITECH Act and ONC (Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology) is providing the infrastructure, information and guidance so we all are better at navigating health care, we know more of the options available and most importantly of all—that we communicate effectively at the right time with the right information.  Perhaps someday we will have a navigation system for health care.

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