The largest health care systems in Missouri are the first to participate in a statewide network that will allow health care providers to share electronic patient records with one another.
BJC Healthcare, Mercy and SSM Healthcare -- which provide almost 40 percent of inpatient care in Missouri -- are working with outstate providers Burrell Behavioral Health and Nevada Medical Clinic to begin a health information network.
The aim of the network is to improve care, safety and efficiency by reducing errors and duplicating services. For example, if you live in St. Charles but get sick while on vacation in Branson, the doctor would be able to immediately access your medical history from your physician in St. Charles. Or if you end up in an emergency room unable to communicate, the doctor could access your current medications and allergies.
The effort has been in the works since spring 2011 with the formation of the Missouri Health Connection, a nonprofit governed by a board that includes members of state government, healthcare organizations, private practice physicians and consumer groups.
Missouri Health Connection "will empower physicians to provide care, whenever and wherever it's needed, armed with secure, real-time patient information," said director Mary Kasal.
The federal stimulus bill that passed in 2009 included more than $19 billion for states to increase the use of electronic health records, which research shows cuts costs and improves health outcomes. Missouri Health Connection won $13.8 million of the money.
While many health care systems have changed from paper charts to digital, only providers within each system can share information. The statewide exchange will use a secure program created to allow the different systems to share data. Only authorized users will have access.
Participating providers are implementing a system to securely send copies of requested records and tests to each other through an email-like message, communications director Mindy Mazur said. Eventually, providers will be able to type in a patient's name -- with the patient's prior consent -- and see the patient's history. Providers such as laboratories, clinics, pharmacies and nursing homes also can participate.
"We look forward to the day when the entire state is connected through a secure and portable network for health care services that enhances patient care," said Kim Day, board chairman and regional president of Mercy Central Communities. ___
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