Massachusetts Collaborative Launches EMR Pilots
The following article appeared in the March 2006 issue of the ACP Observer.
What began in 2004 as an effort by Massachusetts providers to pool resources and develop a statewide electronic health record (EHR) is about to go live. Soon-to-be launched pilot projects are part of a systematic plan by the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative to connect community health care professionals and facilities by implementing EHRs.
Three finalist communities have been selected to serve as pilot sites: Brockton, a large, culturally diverse community with more than 400 physicians; Newburyport, an intermediate-sized suburban community with about 100 physicians; and Williamstown/North Adams, a small rural community with between 50 and 75 physicians.
The collaborative is an incorporated nonprofit made up of about three dozen state health care organizations, which represent physicians and other providers, hospitals, insurers, consumers, government and business. It grew out of an information technology summit convened by ACP's Massachusetts Chapter in March 2004 (see the article from the January 2005 issue of Observer). Its goal is to create a statewide interoperable EHR system with decision support that links physician practices with all the other providers throughout the state.
"It's a very ambitious project," said Allan H. Goroll, FACP, Governor for the Massachusetts Chapter and chair-emeritus of the nonprofit's board of directors.
"We've done the hard preparatory work, and the community has remained very strongly committed." In fact, pilot communities are approaching a "remarkable" 100% physician participation rate, he said.
Each pilot has been offered the all-expense-paid services of collaborative-approved EHR vendors in return for participating in a two-to-three year evaluation of the costs and benefits of a community-wide interoperable EHR. Vendors were selected on the basis of their ability to meet the collaborative's interoperability and service standards, Dr. Goroll explained.
Those standards incorporate the collaborative's participation in national efforts, including the National Health Information Initiative. The collaborative has also hooked up with MassShare, a nonprofit that is establishing infrastructure to transmit EHR information between communities.
"We are like the intracommunity 'last mile' provider, while they provide the 'power line' that makes the intercommunity connection possible," explained Dr. Goroll, who is professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and physician of the medical service at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.
A plan to evaluate the project is already in place: David W. Bates, FACP, chief of general internal medicine at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, has received a $3 million matching grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to evaluate project results, Dr. Goroll said. The pilots themselves are being funded by a $50 million unrestricted grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
The next phase, Dr. Goroll said, is to "expand the effort exponentially," with the state expressing interest in active participation. "The momentum," Dr. Goroll said, "continues."
Page updated: 03-17-06