Fayetteville, Ark. - Blue Cross Blue Shield will partner with the University of Arkansas and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to create a research center that will focus on using information technology to improve the health care delivery system, the companies report.   The center's creation was announced today during a health information technology meeting -- hosted by Wal-Mart -- of business, IT and health care leaders held in Rogers, Ark.   The Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics will conduct research designed to identify and address gaps and obstacles in the application and delivery of health information technology. The center will also serve to highlight and replicate proven applications that are working to benefit patients and providers. The goal of the center's work is to put the right materials in the hands of doctors and nurses where and when they need them; it also aims to eliminate the threat of medical errors arising from wasteful and unreliable practices in health care supply networks.   The Center's initial work will address information technology-based innovations for bringing visibility and tracking to every level of health care procurement and distribution processes.   Experience shows that such transparency leads to significant cost savings by eliminating duplication and confusion, enhancing collaboration among participating organizations and avoiding mistakes that can lead to dangerous errors.   "Blue Cross Blue Shield is proud to join Wal-Mart and the University of Arkansas in this worthy venture," said Bob Shoptaw, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Arkansas, Fayetteville. "We look forward to contributing to the advancement of health care technology through the creation of this research center."   In making the announcement, Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer said the center's work will help fill a large information gap in the health care system. "The best example of this need was Hurricane Katrina. Medical records, property records, court records were lost. Entire family histories -- medical, cultural and otherwise -- were gone in an instant, and the entire region is still recovering from this massive loss of information," Menzer said.   "The University of Arkansas has a strong track record of success with industry-university research collaborations in the ever-changing realms of information technology and logistics," said University Chancellor John White from the University's Fayetteville campus. "A fundamental purpose of any flagship university is to stimulate economic success and enhance quality of life. We are well positioned to leverage our logistics center experience to ensure success in identifying real solutions for transforming health care processes, which holds benefits for the State of Arkansas and the entire nation."   Professor Ron Rardin will be the center's executive director. Before joining the University of Arkansas, Dr. Rardin led the National Science Foundation's efforts to foster research in health care delivery and later played a key leadership role in Purdue University's Regenstrief Center for Health Care Engineering. Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., will pledge $1 million over five years to fund the center. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas, Alabama and Illinois have joined Wal-Mart as partners. The Center will also raise money from other private sector companies, government agencies and foundations to help conduct its research and demonstration projects.   Source: PRNewswire

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