Thursday, January 24, 2008

Electronic Medical Records: Up East & Abroad

With so much health care news these days mired in the politics of the various U.S. Presidential primaries and caucuses, I believe it's time to take a glance at some pertinent info that is getting lost in the shuffle. The topic I would like to put a spotlight on today is EMRs, Electronic Medical Records.

Let's start with this morning's Boston Globe, where Milton J. Valencia describes the creation of a new community-based network of physicians in the South Shore area of Boston, Massachusetts, who focus on sharing medical databases and records, Brockton Hospital's new Signature Healthcare:

Under the network, doctors will work off one system, making services more cost efficient, Goodman said. Standards of care will be the same within the network; all doctors will use the same prescription drug formula, for example, so that patients with the same illness aren't prescribed different drugs - saving the hospital money in buying the drugs, Goodman said.
This implementation of standards marks an important point in the evolution of health care procedures. The implementation of standards and measurements (systems thinking) is one of the big concepts in Mr. Halvorson's book, and this looks like it could be a fine step forward in that regard. The Globe's article continues:
The most evident change will be shared electronic medical record keeping, which has become the latest tool allowing doctors to share information with specialists and a key element in building a network of providers, said Rich Copp, spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

"It's an example of hospitals around the Commonwealth doing what they can to integrate their care," Copp said. "Being able to have one system . . . is really going to be a great convenience and help improve the quality of care in Brockton."
Alan Wechsler of the Albany Times Union writes about a landmark grant program geared toward defraying the cost of implementing EMRs for small practices that would otherwise be hard pressed to afford them. The interesting part is that the grants are coming from the Capital District Physicians' Health Plan:
The Albany-based health insurer plans to award a total of $1 million, piece by piece, to small practices in the Capital Region for the purpose of investing in electronic medical records technology. [...]

The medical records system is expected to bring better health care by preventing duplication and dangerous drug interactions, as well as giving doctors access to better information about their patients. In the long term, it's expected to decrease the cost of health care -- something of great interest to insurance companies.
Lastly comes this article by Kelly Kennedy from the Air Force Times website which brings us positive tidings from overseas:
After decades of doctors treating brain injuries, heart problems and complex war wounds at Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, hospital administrators there have also belatedly leaped the technological divide to create electronic records.

CliniComp International has been awarded a contract to create and track electronic medical records at the Defense Department’s largest hospital outside the continental U.S. The company provides the service for 18 other military hospitals, which together comprise 45 percent of inpatient beds in the military system.
All in all there seems to be quite a bit of good news on the topic of EMRs. Let us hope that the trend continues.

SOURCE: "Health network to keep care close to home" 01/24/08
SOURCE: " Insurer an ally in data upgrades" 01/23/08
SOURCE: "Landstuhl to use electronic medical records" 01/23/08
photo courtesy of John A. Ward, used under this Creative Commons license

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