Funding Expands Access To Health Records
Of the more than $9 billion of federal stimulus money New York City is receiving, over $100 million is going toward computer upgrades to get more hospitals and doctors wired to access your health records.
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With just a few mouse clicks, Dr. Andrew Wallach at Bellevue Hospital can see x rays and scans, order prescriptions and see potential drug allergy alerts, and pull up a years worth of lab reports and other parts of his patients' medical history.
It's a piece of the electronic health record system the federal government plans on supporting with more than $17 billion of stimulus money nationally starting in 2011. Of that, $121 million is coming to the city.
"The way it works here is we have a record which basically replicates a paper record except that it is all online. The advantages of doing this are quite obvious, most related to patient safety issues," said Wallach.
Some might question why money meant to bolster the nation's electronic health records system is wrapped up in an economic recovery package. But doctors and health officials say savings from going paperless should be huge.
"Computers can help pull information together to try and guide a clinician in providing the best possible treatment for that patient at the best possible cost," said Health & Hospitals Corp. President Alan D. Aviles.
Doctors say it also leads to fewer medical mistakes, improved continuity of care for patients with multiple providers, and less duplication of tests and other costly services.
"I think we cannot afford not to do this. It will cut down on costs, it will cut down on admissions because again, the information is available here. Whereas in the past, let's say for example a patient is coming into my office with chest pain, and I can look on the computer and see that they've had a cardiac catheterization or other workup and it's all been unremarkable. That will save me from having to admit that patient to the hospital, whereas in years past, if I didn't have that information, the default would be to play it safe and actually admit the patient," said Wallach.
Health officials say that less than 10 percent of hospitals around the country are fully online with electronic health records. Right now, hospitals like Bellevue are able to share patient information with some of the hospitals that have their same computer network.
One of the hopes of expanding electronic health records is that all hospitals and health care settings will eventually be able to share information with each other.