Medical records go digital
Governor Phil Bredesen has announced a statewide council to guide the ongoing development of eHealth initiatives across the state and a new initiative in the Tri-cities area. Since Bredesen’s State of the State address in 2002 where he pledged resources to build Tennessee’s health information infrastructure to both help Tennesseans and be a model for the nation, a portfolio of eHealth initiatives have launched across the state. As a result, Tennessee has established some of the most promising pilot projects in the nation for the development of a portable electronic medical record. By leveraging state and federal funds Tennessee is accomplishing leading edge changes in the health information technology sector. “Our goal is efficient and effective delivery of health information to improve the quality of care provided to the citizens of Tennessee,” said Governor Bredesen. “If someone’s medical history and record of care is available to their hospital, laboratory, pharmacy or physician, then they will ultimately receive better and more cost-effective medical care.” Senior federal officials have indicated that eHealth and the development of electronic medical records will be a key element in President Bush’s State of the Union address next week. This strategy has also gained strong bi-partisan support from national figures ranging from Newt Gingrich to Hillary Clinton. The Council will guide ongoing eHealth initiatives in Tennessee to ensure interoperability, facilitate the definition of uniform standards, eliminate duplication of effort and reduce competition for resources.
A Portfolio of Initiatives —An electronic medical record project in Knoxville is in the early developmental stages as well. The Physicians’ Foundation for Health Systems Excellence, a Boston-based nonprofit, has invested $26 million nationwide to launch a program allowing hospitals, physicians, labs, pharmacies and other health-care organizations access to patient records to improve patient care and save money. Working through the Patient Safety Institute, a grant of $985,000 was made to the Eastern Tennessee Health Information Network in Knoxville, a collaboration of Knoxville’s four major hospitals: Baptist Health System, Covenant Health, St. Mary’s Health System and University Health System.
—The state has committed $1 million to the Tri-Cities’ CareSpark program. CareSpark is participating in the Central Appalachian region’s prototype for a National Health Information Network, funded through a $5.6 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their goal is to develop an interoperable standards-based network for the secure exchange of health care information.
—In place since 2004, the MidSouth eHealth Alliance in Memphis serves as the nexus for a broad, subscriber-based data-sharing organization working toward a model for electronic medical records that could be applied nationally. They are partnered with Vanderbilt University, a leader in the health information technology field. The state has committed just under $9 million over five years to this effort and is also leveraging an additional $5 million from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.—TennCare, Tennessee’s expanded Medicaid program providing health insurance coverage to 1.2 million Tennesseans, has also implemented an electronic medical record initiative in partnership with Shared Health, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.