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Western NY launches patient record exchange

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[January 24, 2009]  BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Doctors in western New York have a new, electronic way to access patient records with the hope of reducing medical errors and avoiding costly duplicative tests.

HardwareThe HEALTHeLINK Western New York Clinical Information Exchange is a step toward Gov. David Paterson's goal of creating a unified statewide system where doctors can access records that are now scattered among different clinics and offices.

"The emergency room doctor who's never seen that patient before ever will have access to their information, their medication history, any lab work, any radiology reports," HEALTHeLINK Executive Director Dan Porreca said.

On a national level, President Barack Obama, during his campaign, promised a $50 billion investment to store patient records electronically. Earlier this month, Obama said he wants all of the country's medical records computerized within five years.

"We believe that New York is setting the standard in fulfilling the president's goal of digitizing patient health records and HEALTHeLINK is an integral component of our statewide initiative," said Lori Evans, the state Health Department's deputy commissioner of health information and technology.


Addressing privacy concerns, Porreca said the electronic files are more secure than paper, since only authorized people will have access to the Web-based system and to a patient's records.

"If it's a paper chart, you never know who's looked at that," he said. "In electronic form, we can track who's looking at what."

As of Wednesday evening's launch, about 500 physicians had registered for the free service, which contained more than 4 million lab results and reports.

The system is not meant to replace existing electronic medical record software now used by some doctors to record patient visits, but it gives doctors without such software the ability to view lab results, radiology results and transcribed reports from hospitals.

"What we're doing is facilitating delivery of information electronically to physicians that are taking care of patients at the point of care," Porreca said.

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The information exchange also gives doctors the ability to "e-prescribe" - send an accurate, legible prescription directly to a pharmacy. The system will build and maintain a permanent record of a patient's medication history, resulting in fewer adverse drug interactions.

"What is important about this effort is we want people's personal health information to follow them wherever they are and to be available at the time they're being seen," said Dr. Michael Cropp, board chairman of HEALTHeLINK.

The federal government has encouraged electronic prescriptions by agreeing to increase Medicare reimbursement to participating doctors by 2 percent in 2009 and 2010. Doctors who do not adopt the practice will have their reimbursement reduced by 1 percent in 2010.

The not-for-profit HEALTHeLINK was established through a $3.5 million state grant and funding from the Buffalo-based Catholic Health and Kaleida Health hospital systems, Erie County Medical Center and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, along with three insurance organizations: HealthNow New York Independent Health Association and Univera Healthcare.

[Associated Press; By CAROLYN THOMPSON]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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