In Pursuit Of Electronic Health Records

Dec 26, 2011

Federal and state officials across the country are working to implement the various provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  A major component of that is using electronic health records to reduce paperwork and administrative costs.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Connecticut officials are building their own electronic health records system.  And now, they're officially looking for providers to join in.  It's called the Health Information Technology Exchange of Connecticut, and it's the quasi-public agency charged with setting up a way for doctors, hospitals, and other providers to share information about the patients they serve.  David Gilbertson is the agency's CEO.  He says compartmentalized data makes for bad, and expensive, treatment. "Oftentimes, the only interface between the two or three specialists your seeing and your primary care doctor is what you tell them." So this looks to change that.  But to be useful, providers actually have to share their information.  To that end, Gilbertson recently asked healthcare providers to apply to be part of a pilot program.  The deadline for that was last week.  Once they join the program, Gilbertson says his agency's job will be to connect them together. Electronic health records have had some issues -- they could be an easy way to steal someone's identity.  A recent story in the New York Times told of how a laptop with records from nearly 14,000 patients was stolen out of a Massachusetts car -- and the trouble that followed. It's a concern Gilbertson says he's aware of. "One of our biggest charges is to make sure that we're providing the appropriate security so that they can securely and correctly share information when and where it needs to go and only when and where it needs to go." You can learn more about the exchange at the website for the state's Department of Public Health -- ct.gov/dph.   For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.