STATE—New Jersey will receive $11.4 million in federal funds over the next four years to fund electronic health records projects that will allow hospitals, doctors and health insurance companies to share electronic medical records in real time over secure networks.
The state will work with the health care industry to create four regional health information exchanges that will share information such as lab results and medication histories among health care providers around the state. The exchanges hold the promise of improving health care quality and efficiency by eliminating duplicative testing, avoiding dangerous medication interactions and providing information about patient histories with other facilities that will help physicians improve care.
The funding, awarded under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, moves the state closer to the national goal of achieving interoperable electronic health records transfer capability by the year 2014.
The Department of Health and Senior Services led a multi-departmental effort to apply for the grant and to jointly submit a state plan for Health Information Technology.
Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh and Banking and Insurance Commissioner Tom Considine explained that the goal of the initiative is to increase patient safety and reduce medical costs. The Department of Human Services, which runs the state’s Medicaid program, is also involved in the initiative.
“The real-time exchange of clinical data among health-care providers represents a central pillar of health-care reform,” said Dr. Alaigh. “If we’re going to get serious about reducing costs, if we’re going to get serious about managing patients with chronic disease, and if we’re going to get serious about coordinating care, then accurate and robust data at the point of care is fundamental.”
“These infrastructure projects are important building blocks in creating a network-wide electronic health records system,” said Commissioner Considine. “These projects will help lead the way toward better and safer medical care for the people of New Jersey.”
“When we began this effort more than a decade ago, we knew it would be an ambitious undertaking,” said Considine. “An electronic health records system translates to important cost savings for hundreds of thousands of people.”
When these projects are completed by March 2014, treatments including diagnostic tests such as legally required lead screening for children will be tracked, preventing unnecessary duplicate services. Another benefit of electronic health records is that any possible adverse reactions, such as drug allergies, would be known by the treating medical staff.
New Jersey’s work on health information technology began in 1999 with the establishment of the Office for Electronic Health Information Technology. As required by ARRA, all states must develop a health IT network that registers every citizen by the end of 2015.
The grant award marks the culmination of a process among several departments of state government and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The Statewide Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program—offered by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology—required states to submit state Health IT Plans that addressed several issues, including privacy, security, and technical infrastructure.
The four exchanges that received funding have statewide coverage and were selected last fall through a competitive Request for Application process.
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