When Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Bill Hazel’s mother had her gallbladder removed she saw 13 doctors before having the operation. Each one required new forms, and each one required a new test.
Over the next few years, as Virginia physicians adopt electronic health record systems, medical inefficiency may become a thing of the past.
“The goal is to enable institutions and physicians who have electronic records to share information, and save people the aggravation of a brand new stack of forms with each doctor’s visit,” said Hazel. “Good electronic interchange will allow the information to be there, reducing the need for extra tests, and ideally, save people time.”
And now more than ever, time is money.
Currently 27 percent of primary care physicians utilize electronic health records in Virginia, but with a $12.6 million dollar grant from the federal government, the Virginia Health Quality Center has been charged with the task to raise those numbers. The VHQC will assist 2,285 physicians with adopting the new technology.
The VHQC is a non-profit consultation group that serves the healthcare industry.
“We’re going to put the technology in the hands of folks who are least likely, or least able to implement it otherwise,” said Donald Glozer, CEO of VHQC.
The effort will focus on primary care physicians in at practices with 10 or fewer doctors.
The VHQC has 700 physicians already committed to adopting electronic health records, and will recruit the remaining number over the next two years. The Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon is partnering with the VHQC to assist physicians in making the change.
“For example, if a diabetic walks into a doctor’s office, his or her doctor will be able to compare testing results, and treatment against all of the doctor’s other diabetic patients,” said Glozer. “We’re improving care by aggregating and grouping information, and will improve the efficiency of delivering care.”
Governor McDonnell’s Health Information Technology Advisory Commission received the other grant related to electronic health records, and will use the $11.6 million to enable more physicians to use electronic medical records, particular in underserved areas. Secretary Hazel, who leads the Commission, said the project is currently in the planning stage and will span four years.
The commission was formed by former Governor Tim Kaine last year to guide spending of the funds allocated to the state by the stimulus act.
Hazel said that as part of another program, over the next five years the federal government is offering a $44,000 grant to doctors who adopt electronic medical records, but that they can’t qualify without a means of exchange, which is the task of the Commission.
For those apprehensive about potential security risk associated with electronic records, both Hazel and Glozer said that all physicians are required to meet certain federal standards for privacy and security.
“There are already national standards in place regulating who has access to medical records, and how that information can be used.”
Both phases of the electronic health records project will create new Virginia jobs, specifically 35 within the VHQC alone.