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ASU ramps up efforts to meet health care challenges

September 13, 2006

The Center for Health Information and Research (CHIR), which works to improve the quality of health care in Arizona, is now part of the biomedical informatics research program in the new School of Computing and Informatics (SCI) in ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recently selected CHIR as one of six better quality information centers, jointly funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS) and the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research (AHRQ) as part of a national project to test new methods of measuring health care outcomes.

CHIR was established in 1999 with Flinn Foundation funding in the Seidman Research Institute in ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business. William G. Johnson, who joins the biomedical informatics faculty, has been CHIR's director since its inception.

The center focuses its research on a on a wide variety of health care topics, including the health care work force, occupational illness and injury, medical malpractice, health care economics, disability and clinical quality. Researchers work to analyze and interpret health care data.

CHIR has more than 50 data partners in the effort, including health care providers, insurers and employers, agencies such as the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona Medical Board, the University of Arizona College of Medicine and programs at the new Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

“The timing of CHIR's move to the School of Computing and Informatics is perfect,” says Paul Johnson, executive dean of the Fulton School. “It coincides with the launch of SCI and places CHIR in the midst of computer science faculty and growing informatics and bioinformatics programs. Both CHIR and SCI leadership recognize that solutions to our challenging health care management problems will emerge from environments such as SCI that nurture transdisciplinary and collaborative research.”

“We are excited by the synergy that CHIR brings to SCI,” adds SCI's director, Sethuraman Panchanathan. “We have already collaborated in the governor's e-Health initiative for Arizona, and are ideal partners to leverage and strengthen our biomedical informatics activity. This partnership captures the true spirit of the New American University by fusing public health and informatics to realize the vision of personalized medicine.”

CHIR is the home of Arizona Health Query (AZHQ), a community health data system, the Arizona health care work force database, and the Maricopa County child fatality review program. Initially supported by the Flinn Foundation, AZHQ was established in 1999 and is supported by ASU and St. Luke's Health Initiatives.

AZHQ is an integrated collection of health care information, a “data warehouse” that offers the capability to link information from disparate sources. The database, for instance, is being used to examine health disparities and the emergency medical care crisis.

Joe Kullman ,

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