Fort Worth Magazine October 2010 : Page 119

The average American patient accumulates at least 200 pages of medi-cal records, scattered in 19 different medical offices. Now imagine all of that available with one click of a computer mouse. No more filling out forms at every new-doctor office visit, straining to remember your last tetanus shot or the cause of your grandmother’s death. In the exam room, the doctor uses your electronic medical record to absorb your health history quickly. After a diagnosis, the computer screen prompts the doctor on the latest scientifically proven treatment for what ails you. The doctor writes an electronic prescription after the program verifies the pills will not cause a bad reaction with your other medications. Your medicine will be waiting for you at the pharmacy when you arrive. Welcome to modern medicine, finally. The U.S. health care system has a lust for sophisticated diagnos-tic-imaging equipment and space-age surgical devices. However, it has relied on 19th century technology to chronicle its activity: paper charts and clipboards; pens, and overstuffed manila file folders to be shelved and pulled. That is changing. Tarrant County is being wired quickly. Texas Health Resources (THR) this summer completed automating its local hospitals. Baylor Health Care System expects to have its Grapevine and Fort Worth hospitals and its Tarrant primary-care clinics done by the end of 2011. Cook Children’s Hospital began implementing EHR in February and plans to complete the instal-lation by the end of the year. Sandlot is a Fort Worth-based medical infor-mation network created by physician-owned North Texas Specialty Physicians. Its health information exchange digitally connects local physicians, hos-pitals, pharmacies and labs. The company’s rapidly growing inventory allows 1,400 doctors and seven local hospitals to access 1.5 million patient records. When historians weigh the Obama administra-tion’s health care legacy, health reform’s near-uni-versal insurance expansion may well be overshad-owed by universal adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). The Health Information Technology for Eco-tives appear to be working. An estimated $89 billion will be spent worldwide this year on health information technology, and that is expected to rise to $106 billion by 2014. Associate professor Liam O’Neill, who teaches health information technology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, said the federal government funded the effort because the market was not solving the problem. “In other countries, it (EHR) is a public good, like a highway sys-tem. Everyone benefits from it,” he said. For the typical business, office automation During the 2008 presidential cam-paign, Barack Obama leaned heav-ily on a 2005 RAND Corp. study that asserted widespread EHR use would save $81 billion in effi-nomic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) was part of the 2009 economic-stimulus package, designed to hasten the dawning of the medical-office digital age. The federal government is offering incentives of up to $27 billion over 10 years to hospitals and physicians to buy and begin using EHRs in a clinically meaningful way by 2014. Glen Tullman, chief executive officer of EHR vendor Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions, told the Wall Street Journal the EHR stim-ulus funding would lead to “the single-fastest transformation of any industry in the history of the U.S.” Less than 7 percent of physician offices and about 2 percent of hos-pitals have fully functioning EHRs. However, the government incen-ciency and an equal amount by reducing illness and prolong-ing life. is an effort to boost office productivity largely invisible to customers and has little impact on its overall mission. For health care, the stakes are enormous. Patient safety, quality of care and cost reduction all depend on EHRs. Computerized records allow physicians to coordinate a patient’s care and avoid duplicate testing. Dr. Tania Bhattacharjee, a physician at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest in Fort Worth, said she could not imagine practic-ing without EHRs. After using paper records during her residen-cy, she has since worked on three EHR systems and estimates the technology cuts the admin-istrative and care coordination burden by half. The system allows her to access patient records from home. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama leaned heavily on a 2005 RAND Corp. study that asserted widespread EHR use would save $81 billion in efficiency and an equal amount by reducing illness and prolonging life. RAND estimated hospital computerized physician order entry would save 200,000 lives caused by prescription errors. But physicians are put off by the disruption in workflow and the high cost of office automation. Dr. Tom Deas, Sandlot’s chief medical officer, said the willing-ness of physicians to fund, implement and share patient information are major barriers to developing a robust local health information october 2010 ~ Fort Worth, Texas 119

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