The Nebraska medical community is taking a major step forward by strengthening its statewide health information system. Greater information exchange among medical facilities, practitioners and researchers can be a boon for improved medical care in the state.

Consider Nebraska’s rankings for death rates from specific illnesses:

No. 6 nationally for deaths per 1,000 population due to hypertension. The No. 10 death rate from diabetes. No. 11 death rate from chronic lower respiratory disease. No. 14 death rate from flu and pneumonia. The figures are from the national Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, Nebraska ranks 15th nationally for adult obesity.

The more that Nebraska equips itself for prevention and treatment of these and other conditions, the better.

The Nebraska Health Information Initiative provides a vehicle to do so. As The World-Herald’s Julie Anderson explained, the system allows an ER doctor in Kearney, for example, to check the medications and health history of a visiting Omahan who lands in her hospital. The initiative also will provide work study and fellowships for medical students and health research opportunities for nurses.

“This health care collaborative will be instrumental in closing the gap between data science and clinical care,” says Dr. Ann Polich, vice president of quality and performance with Methodist Health System.

WellCare of Nebraska, one of the companies managing Medicaid services in Nebraska, will provide $5 million for the establishment of the collaborative and an additional $5 million for endowed research chairs at the University of Nebraska and Creighton University. The funds come from reinvestment funds as part of WellCare’s contract with the state.

Nebraska medical professionals need all the tools possible in maximizing care for residents. This strengthened data exchange has the potential for major benefits in prevention, treatment, medical training and research.

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