Masschusetts to set up statewide electronic health information exchange

June 2009 dump 190

The idea that computers can cut health care costs seems pretty abstract at times. But, if you think of all the money wasted on claims processing, prescribing errors and questionable care, it makes sense. Computers could get at the cost of administration, medical errors and unnecessary testing and treatment. 

Massachusetts is setting up a health information exchange that could serve as a national model, according to the self described geek doctor, John Halamka, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  He’s also co-chair of the federal health information technology (HIT) Standards Committee. That means he’s deep into the federal effort to wire the health care system or according to the Globe he is “cochair of a committee that will help…determine a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for electronic medical records – essentially, what features do they need in order to be government-certified.”

So, when he couldn’t makes it to a recent meeting of like CIOs, he put together a video to fill them in on how to get in on the $1.2 billion in federal funding set aside for HIT.

Look to the Bay State, he said. In the video, he said Massachusetts has a plan to bring local and regional health information programs into a statewide system. Here’s a draft plan for eastern Mass.

“Think of it as leveraging the work of the past by providing a governance layer,” he said in the video.”

This will position the state to qualify for one of the proposed federal  Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement grants.

The grants are designed to: reach all health care providers in an effort to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. Cooperative agreement recipients will evolve and advance the necessary governance, policies, technical services, business operations and financing mechanisms for HIE over a four year performance period. This program will build off of existing efforts to advance regional and state level HIE while moving towards nationwide interoperability

On the video, Halamka also talked about “meaningful use,” a key concept for docs and hospitals seeking federal HIT funding. The federal government isn’t interested in buying new Macs for doc to process claims.  Successful applicants will have to offer systems that collect data, handle prescriptions and provide patient portals.   

 “It’s not just about buying software. It’s about really using it to improve quality, coordinate care, empower the patients…offer educational material and access to the record of the patient,”  he said in the video.

For more, see the video, via Healthcare IT news, or the latest missive from Dr. David Blumenthal, head of HIT for the feds.

CORRECTION: This post was updated at 4:30 pm from an earlier version, which listed a different federal HIT program.

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