ACP's Massachusetts Chapter Helps Launch Statewide EMR Effort
The following article will be appearing in the January/February 2005 issue of the ACP Observer.
Investing in technology is a major component of the Integrated Healthcare Association's pay-for-performance initiative in California, making up 20% of participants' scores in the 2004 measurement year. With many physicians saying the high price of information technology prevents them from investing in electronic medical records (EMRs), College leaders in Massachusetts decided to explore a statewide effort.
The ACP Massachusetts Chapter convened an information technology summit in March 2004 attended by the state's key health care leaders, said Allan H. Goroll, FACP, Governor for the Massachusetts Chapter. Out of that summit grew the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, a stand-alone, nonprofit coalition of 34 different organizations made up of physicians, nurses, insurers, hospitals, patient advocacy groups, state government and businesses.
The collaborative seeks to create a statewide interoperable electronic health record (EHR) system with decision-support that links physician practices, hospitals, laboratories, and other health care institutions and providers, said Dr. Goroll, who chairs the nonprofit's board of directors. The collaborative's efforts are backed by a $50 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Massachusetts to conduct pilot demonstration and implementation projects in three communities.
"Developing and implementing a state-wide electronic health record infrastructure is far beyond the capacity of any group or organization," said Dr. Goroll, who is professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and physician of the medical service at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. "By coming together, we saw an opportunity to move from very piecemeal adoption in our state-a percent or two a year in physicians' practices-to widespread implementation in a fraction of the time."
Providing technical and policy assistance on the project is the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium (www.mahealthdata.org/), a nonprofit whose executive director, Eliot Stone, also sits on the eHealth Collaborative's board. One of the Health Data Consortium's projects, MedsInfo-ED, is a medication-history lookup being installed in three major hospitals across the state.
The system delivers real-time patient prescription information from major health plans to hospital emergency departments, providing a way for physicians to view prescriptions that other providers write. The consortium plans to connect those hospitals and physicians in the eHealth Collaborative's EHR pilot communities to MedsInfo-ED.
"This is an opportunity for physicians to transition from the visit business to the care management business," said Mr. Stone. "They'll have a better handle on who their patients are and all the different interactions that go on between their patients and others providers in the healthcare system."
The eHealth Collaborative is seeking and reviewing proposals from communities vying to participate, and will use results from the demonstration projects to inform more widespread rollout of the EHR infrastructure. According to Dr. Goroll, the ultimate price tag for the statewide project could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, an investment expected to eventually pay off in reductions in waste, duplication and errors. One positive sign for state involvement is the strong project endorsement from Gov. Milt Romney, who held a news conference last month at Mass General, voicing his support for the collaborative's community demonstration projects.
"We are fortunate to have garnered the support of all key stakeholders, the interest of very talented people and the necessary political will," said Dr. Goroll, who proudly noted that the initiative was launched and continues to be championed by the ACP Massachusetts Chapter. "It's now time to get to work."
Page updated: 12-20-04
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