Massachusetts launched a network Tuesday to allow healthcare providers to share patient’s electronic medical records. It was hailed as a milestone in the effort to bring better coordination to the cumbersome health care system.. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, other state officials, and hospital executives gathered at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to send the first electronic medical records over the new network. The governor’s own medical records were transmitted to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
Participants in the two locations were connected via videoconference. But the electronic medical records were sent over a point to point private network. Patrick consented to have his medical records used for the demonstration to instill public confidence in the privacy and security of the system.
Joel Vengco, the chief information officer for Baystate said medical records can not be shared electronically without a patient’s consent.
Allowing healthcare providers large and small, anywhere in the state, access to a patient’s electronic medical records will result in better care, according to Dr. Evan Benjamin, who is Baystate’s Senior Vice President of Healthcare quality.
The ability by different healthcare providers to share a patient’s electronic medical records is also expected to lower costs by eliminating duplication of medical procedures.
The Massachusetts electronic medical records exchange is the first in the nation funded by the federal government. It was paid for with a $17 million grant from Medicaid and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Massachusetts Health Information Highway, as the program is called, was set by the Massachusetts Ehealth Institute,which is part of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. It launched Tuesday with fewer than a dozen health care providers participating. The institute’s director, Lawrence Stuntz said the goal is to get 50,000 participants during the next two years.
A tiered pricing structure has been set up for access to the exchange. A small practice with fewer than ten providers will pay $5 a month.