Electronic Health Records

December 14, 2011 by staff 

Electronic Health Records, Medical data is starting to be exchanged electronically in New Jersey via “health information exchanges” whose members are hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers working in the same region of the state. Often, these providers treat the same patients; the goal is to improve outcomes by giving them access to information on all the care these patients receive. Ultimately, the state plans to link these regional information exchanges into a statewide digital health information network, so one day the medical records of a Sparta resident who winds up in the emergency room while on vacation at the Jersey shore will be available to the local medical team, just as they are to the individual’s family physician at home.
One of the regional exchanges, Health-e-cITi-NJ, on Tuesday held a conference to demonstrate how the eight hospitals in the network will exchange records with one another and with ambulance services, physician practices, and visiting nurses. In the next few weeks the exchange will go live. “Doctors will understand their patients’ allergies, immunizations, advance directives, test results, and medical histories, easily and immediately,” said Tom Gregorio, chairman of Health-e-cITi-NJ and chief executive officer of Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, which hosted the conference.

Patient privacy and data security are built into the system, according to attorney Alexandra Garcia, who said patients will be able to opt out of having their digital medical records become part of the exchange. But patients who do give the green light will get online access to their own medical records, just as they now go online to see their bank balance and their credit card statements. The system will maintain a log of any provider or individual who looks at the records.

Health-e-cITi-NJ is one of several regional health information exchanges in various stages of implementation across the state.

The Camden Health Exchange went live in October 2010, according to Dr. Jeffrey Brenner of Cooper University Hospital, who founded the Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers nine years ago to address the excessive hospitalization of Camden residents for chronic ailments like diabetes.

Brenner said the city’s hospital ERs and primary care physicians log into the system to check on patients. “One clinic cares for homeless people, and you can imagine the complexity and the difficulty of getting good information,” on that population, Brenner said. “Now the doctor can pull the information up right in the office at any computer connected to the internet. Sick people are getting better care. You don’t have to repeat tests that have already been done, and you can make quicker decisions because you know what has happened recently, especially with patients who can’t articulate the care they have gotten.”

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