Health information exchange in NJ

    Three health systems in Camden are teaming up with primary care physicians to share the medical records of their patients.

    Several New Jersey health systems are opening their files to one another in an effort to exchange patients’ medical records. The intent is to give doctors better access to people’s health background. From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens reports on efforts to make a similar exchange West of the Delaware River.

    Listen:

    [audio:090922kghealth.mp3]

    Three Camden health systems are taking a giant leap forward in health care — they are electronically sharing patients’ medical records. The exchange will help doctors get quick access to a patient’s medical history. This type of information sharing is a model for what the federal government would like to see happen nationwide. This year the government’s stimulus package included $48 billion for moving medical records to electronic systems. Barbara Connors is the regional medical officer for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She spoke at a healthcare event yesterday in Philadelphia.

    Connor: This is really an opportunity for the health-care industry to become part of the development of an infrastructure that’s about 25, 30 years later than it really should have happened.

    Pennsylvania is expecting to launch a state-wide exchange next year. Philip Magistro is the deputy director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s office of health care reform.

    Magistro: We need to get information from hospitals to doctors so they know when somebody is in an emergency department or when a patient has been dicharged from a hospital. Because the studies show that if we can get that information to the primary care docs within 24-48 hours we can halve the readmission rate that goes on today. And in this area the readmission rate is very high.

    David Nash is a dean at Jefferson University. He says it’s taken five years just to electronically share records within the Jefferson system, and doing it city- or statewide will be a challenge.

    Nash: This is happening right now on our campus and it’s a total transformation in what practice is like…Whether we could extend that beyond our own system to work in a competitive environment, I have a lot of doubts about that.

    The major challenges to sharing records include privacy concerns and hospitals not wanting to divulge secrets to their competitors. Nash says the benefit of an exchange would be to see which hospitals end up with the best outcomes in care — and then learn from their approaches.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.