25 Jan Doyle seeks $30M for e-medical record adoption
Madison, Wis. – In a visit to one of Dane County’s largest health systems, Gov. Jim Doyle said he will ask lawmakers to provide $30 million in funding to help healthcare providers convert to electronic health records.
But will that level of commitment be enough?
Doyle, speaking at the east clinic of Dean Health Systems in Madison, made the announcement in advance of his “State of the State” address. In that speech, Doyle is expected to outline key initiatives that will be part of his 2007-09 budget proposal.
Wisconsin is attempting to become the first state in the nation to move away from paper records and charts and fully adopt electronic health records in all healthcare settings. Among the purported benefits of electronic health records are a reduction of medical errors and operational efficiencies, including faster communication, that result in reduced costs.
“Care providers still often rely on paper charts written by hand to record the treatment of patients,” Doyle noted. “With better use of information technology, we can transform our healthcare system to improve the safety and quality of healthcare.”
The proposal seeks $20 million for the creation of an eHealth grant program for organizations that implement what Doyle called eHealth initiatives, and also would provide $10 million in tax credits for businesses that implement such initiatives.
Doyle also will seek state funding for the eHealth Care Quality and Patient Safety Board, which will recommend ways to move all health records in the state to electronic form while ensuring patient confidentiality.
After establishing the board, Doyle called on healthcare providers to help to overcome barriers to a fully integrated electronic medical records system. Barriers include interoperability challenges, organizational jealousies, jurisdictional and proprietary boundaries that historically impede progress, and lingering doubts that it can be done securely.
Dose of reality
Peter Strombom, vice president and CIO of Meriter Health Services, said the funding takes the governor’s eHealth plan in the right direction, but added that a “modicum of reality” is required. He said there is no doubt that achieving the goal of full adoption will enhance patient care and clinical outcomes, and in the long run contribute to a lowering of costs.
However, he added, “the reality is that the technical standards are not yet available to ensure interoperability, and the total cost of achieving the goal will be many times greater than $30 million.”
Strombom said the larger providers in the Madison area are well on their way to achieving the governor’s stated goal, and Meriter alone has spent at least $20 million over the past five years in moving toward an electronic medical record.
“It is these smaller providers that the governor is endeavoring to help, but as we look at the many providers throughout the state without an electronic record, the cost and time that would be involved in meeting the expectations is much greater than currently stated,” Strombom said.
Doyle’s proposal was endorsed by Steve Brenton, president of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, who said the funding for healthcare providers should be particularly helpful to health systems that serve rural areas.
“This aspect of his plan is especially important in rural areas to ensure that they are not locked out of the statewide implementation because of finances,” he said.
Dana Richardson, vice president of quality initiatives for the WHA, said it’s always more difficult for small physician practices to purchase and implement technology, whether they are urban or rural.
She also said an action plan devised by the eHealth Care Quality and Patient Safety Board provides a good roadmap for organizations already investing in electronic health technology, and it encourages the standardization of data transmission formats.
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• Doyle asks health professionals to overcome barriers