As part of the effort to reform the Commonwealth’s health care system, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has helped launch a new initiative designed to reduce medical errors and save costs by converting paper medical records into electronic form.
Romney set ambitious goals for the conversion to electronic health records, saying he would like to see this innovative technology adopted in the majority of the state’s hospitals over the next five years. By keeping medical records electronically, physician groups, health centers and other healthcare providers will reportedly be able to exchange patient information more easily.
“Massachusetts medical institutions are second to none in delivering world-class care to our citizens,” said Romney, who spoke Tuesday at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Ether Dome, the site of the first successful use of ether anesthesia more than 150 years ago.
He added, “By applying new and innovative technology to patient care, and helping caregivers to adopt it, we will make health care more affordable and offer even higher levels of quality care to our citizens.”
Romney lauded the newly formed Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MaeHC), a non-profit governing entity that represents 34 of the state’s key healthcare stakeholders, for leading the electronic health records push. He noted that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has pledged up to $50 million to enable the collaborative to expand electronic health records across the Bay State.
The collaborative will immediately begin accepting applications from communities interested in piloting electronic health record technology. Three pilot projects will be announced in March 2005 and will serve to develop operational and financing models to facilitate the statewide adoption of these technologies.
“BCBSMA is pledging up to $50 million because we believe in the mission of the collaborative and we want to help it achieve its goal to improve the safety, affordability and quality of health care,” said Cleve Killingsworth, president and COO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “We thank Governor Romney for his leadership on this important healthcare issue.”
Moving to an electronic medical records system will reportedly save lives and money. Estimates indicate that as many as 98,000 people in the country die each year because of medical errors. In addition, medication errors, which studies have reportedly shown to be largely avoidable, claim approximately 7,000 lives each year and are responsible for another 770,000 injuries.
Currently available technology could save up to 30 percent of the $1.6 trillion spent nationally on healthcare each year, according to studies.
“Universal implementation of electronic health records will yield a quantum leap in the quality and safety of patient care,” said Micky Tripathi, incoming Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative CEO. “The technology exists today, but we need to get it into the hands of health care professionals so they have the information and tools they need to do the best job possible.”
“Implementing advanced technologies that are proven can dramatically lower healthcare costs and improve quality,” added Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Executive Director Mitchell Adams. “We recently studied this important issue and our findings show that computerized physician order entry systems reduce medical errors, improve patient safety and lead to substantial savings that can be redeployed to strengthen health care in the Commonwealth.”
Five year electronic health record goals include: completing health record pilot programs to set a clear foundation for broader use; adopting community standards for electronic health record interoperability; building a statewide framework for electronic health record systems; devising a financing plan to support electronic health record investment; and establishing best practices that support the privacy and security of electronic health record use.
Last month, Romney announced his intention to work with the Legislature to pass a comprehensive, market-based reform program for the state’s healthcare system. One of its features is a system of electronic health records.
Without relying on additional support from the state’s taxpayers or imposing mandates on businesses, the Commonwealth Care plan will offer coverage to the state’s 460,000 uninsured citizens by creating affordable insurance policies with basic benefits; enrolling Medicaid eligible patients; and providing aggressively managed treatment at clinics, health centers and hospitals for the working poor and long-term unemployed.
In addition, Romney’s plan will reportedly direct patients toward the most effective and efficient care; root out fraud and disincentives from the Medicaid program; and reduce unnecessary system costs and promote efficiencies.
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