07 Feb Doyle proposes $10M to expand use of electronic medical records
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has announced that his budget will include $10 million for a grant and loan program to increase the use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems.
“I am committed to ensuring that all Wisconsin citizens receive quality health care,” Doyle said. “That’s why I am pleased to unveil a proposal of my budget that will help to reduce potentially dangerous medical errors and unnecessary spending by helping care providers implement electronic medical records systems.”
A whopping 30 percent of current health care spending (up to $300 billion) each year nationwide is inappropriate, redundant, or unnecessary, according to David Brailer, national coordinator for health information technology for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. In addition, up to 98,000 people in the United States die every year from medical errors, according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine.
“Care providers still often rely on paper charts written by hand to record the treatment of patients,” Doyle said. “The use of electronic medical records systems can not only prevent deaths, but also eliminate much of the unnecessary administrative costs.”
Marshfield Clinic, a pioneer in compiling and transferring EMRs in the state, is now trying to use it for more sophisticated applications, such as drug diagnoses and interactions.
“Electronic medical records allow the right information to be at the right place at the right time,” said Carl Christensen, CIO of Marshfield Clinic since 1999. “You cannot do that with paper.”
“Physicians are practicing with all the available information,” he added. “In terms of reducing errors, you have drug allergies and alerts available.”
A new Health Care Quality and Patient Safety Board will develop a plan to automate all health care information systems in Wisconsin by 2010, according to the governor’s office. The board will award grants and loans to clinics, HMOs, hospitals and physicians to help them purchase and implement automated systems.
That’s really the trick, according to Andrea Kozek, a spokesperson for Waukesha-based GE Healthcare. GE’s Centricity Physician Office EMR technology is used by thousands of physicians to manage millions of patient records.
“The big hurdle is, since doctors’ offices and the hospital systems have their own networks, you have to work within those parameters,” Kozek said. “Essentially it’s a matter of getting past specific hospital networks, which is the overall industry challenge.”
In the end, patients are really the beneficiary of efficient records transfer.
“As we begin to integrate such medical technology throughout our own system, we feel confident it will enhance patient safety, improve healthcare quality to our patients, and manage costs,” said Allen D. Kemp, Dean Health System’s CEO and board chairman. “Efforts to make such technology more available statewide are very positive for the health of Wisconsin citizens.”
“GE’s Centricity EMR technologies are enabling our health system to be as efficient as possible, resulting in lower costs, fewer errors and consistent, quality healthcare for our patients,” said Bill Miller, CIO ProHealth Care.
In addition, EMR systems allow information to travel easily within a system, such as Marshfield’s, with numerous facilities dispersed over a wide geographic area, Christensen said. That helps reduce the enormous cost of records transfer. A Marshfield study revealed that it costs $4.50 to move a paper chart through its system, a transaction various Marshfield personnel undertake just less than 2 million times a year. Those costs are astronomical compared to the per-transaction cost of EMR transfers.
“From a cost perspective, it’s expensive to maintain paper and move paper around. Once the [electronic] record is in place, it’s pennies for that specific transaction,” Christensen said.