The impact of ARRA and the HITECH Act has created a flurry of activity around EHR adoption in the U.S. However, the benefits of EHR technology could extend well beyond this country’s borders, having a significant global impact.

Global health is an issue worth considering. Does anyone remember that little thing called the Bird Flu? We need to think bigger: How can health technology and EHR systems integrate beyond our borders to improve public and global health? Well, the University of Indiana is working on answering this tough question.

Indiana University (IU) recently received a 1.3 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center to establish the East African Center of Excellence in Health Informatics. The new center will leverage the expertise of IU’s esteemed informatics program and the Regenstrief Institute to create an electronic health records system at Moi University and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in East Africa. This will increase the capacity for electronic health records in one of the world’s poorest regions. By helping East African countries use electronic health records to increase the efficiency and quality of care, this Center of Excellence grant will help East Africans cross what has been termed “the digital divide.”

William Tierney, M.D., an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine and executive director of the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Improvement and Research said:

“Importantly, this Center of Excellence will train East Africans to use electronic tools to solve healthcare problems in their own countries. My American and Kenyan colleagues have shown in Kenya that in spite of problems such as scarce resources, lack of trained personnel, ethnic tension and even lack of dependable electricity, we can capture data electronically that have been used to enhance health-care outcomes and public health. We believe this is an outstanding model for the millions of men, women and children throughout the developing world.”

Like IU, the U.S. needs to think globally in regards to EHRs and Health Information Technology. What about international health exchanges? It would be an extreme disservice for this country to remain in a silo while only creating state and national health exchanges. Let’s not only think of what EHRs can do for “us;” consider what a global database of health information could do for the world.