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Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative Update

From the February 2007 Massachusetts Chapter Newsletter
By: Steven R. Simon, MD, MPH and
David W. Bates, MD, MSC, FACP

The Massachusetts e-Health Collaborative (MAeHC) represents an extremely important and innovative effort to expand electronic health records (EHRs) to physicians' offices and to establish meaningful electronic health information exchange (HIE) throughout the Commonwealth. This program, catalyzed by MA ACP's recent initiatives to improve healthcare quality and patient safety and supported by a $50 million infusion of funds from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts,has gained a great deal of attention nationally, as policy makers try to figure out how to get robust EHRs into physicians' offices, how to get them to use these systems effectively, how to connect them,what it will all cost, and who will pay for it.

As of December 2006, the MAeHC's pilot program of EHR implementation and HIE within 3 communities has achieved its halfway point.This demonstration program includes nearly all physician practices in the Northern Berkshire (North Adams/Williamstown) Lower Merrimac Valley (Newburyport), and Brockton communities. Since "going live" with the first practice (Highland Primary Care in Newburyport) in March 2006,more than 200 physicians' practices have deployed EHRs, on the way to including a total of approximately 440 physicians in more than 200 practices by summer 2007. Clinical data exchange, in the form of a shared clinical summary page, has begun in a few practices in North Adams,where an extensive and thoughtful community-wide education program has led to more than 95% of patients providing written informed consent for their doctors to share electronic health information.

Evaluation of this demonstration program will continue at least through June 2008, with studies to assess the effects of the effort on EHR adoption and usage, clinical productivity and satisfaction, and other economic outcomes. Even as the three pilot communities are actively deploying their systems, the MAeHC is exploring sustainable models for statewide implementation of EHRs in the next 5 years. Stay tuned!