Texas hospitals cut trail for rural RHIOs
Four small, rural, government-run Texas hospitals have banded together to create a unique rural regional health information network (RHIO) they say will enable clinicians to share patient information as well as the financial burden of an electronic health record (EHR).
“None of us could do this project alone—it just wouldn’t be possible,” said Nathan Tudor, CEO of Stonewall Memorial Hospital, which has 20 in-patient beds and sees between 1500 and 2000 patients a year in its emergency room.”
The four hospitals —which also include the 45-bed Anson Memorial General Hospital, 25-bed Stamford Memorial Hospital and the 14-bed Throckmorton County Memorial Hospital—are located within 25 miles of each other in central Texas and frequently see the same patients. Up until now, they have all relied on paper medical charts and have not been able to easily share patient information.
The providers want the system, which is currently being installed, to be on track to be operational by October 2010. By doing so, they would be eligible to apply for health IT incentive funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The hospital administrators decided to work together and make the commitment to invest in a shared EHR “because quite simply it’s something that is really needed to improve patient care,” said Tudor, noting that many of the area’s population is enrolled in Medicare and battling chronic health issues.
“Because we’re so small, not every hospital can be everything to every patient, and so we were willing to collaborate and cooperate on this project,” he added. “As a result we have overcome some of the financial and technology obstacles that have historically stood in the way of rural hospitals that want to implement EHRs.”
The new RHIO will rely on a comprehensive electronic health record called ChartAccess from Prognosis Health Systems, a Houston-based IT company that will host the solution in a cloud computing environment.
The application will be located offsite and maintained by Prognosis employees. Authorized hospital clinicians and administrators will be able to access the system and all functions via the Web.
The solution is so cutting-edge, said Tudor, that physicians can securely view patient records from their cell phones. “If a physician was at home and wants to brush up on some of patients he expects to see later in the ER, he or she can do that,” he explains.
The EHR will also be integrated with billing, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology and other systems at the different hospitals, which will allow it to serve as a clinical data repository for all clinical information. “It will provide a seamless continuum of care for our patients,” Tudor said.
The providers want the system, which is currently being installed, to be on track to be operational by October 2010. By doing so, Tudor says, the RHIO will be eligible for health information exchange and EHR monies available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.