No one was more excited to learn that President Obama's federal stimulus bill would inject $17 billion into health information technology than Dr. Lou Capponi, Chief Medical Informatics Officer at HHC. His vision of an electronic health record (EHR) system that can harness the power of the human genome sequence to provide more personalized care now seemed more attainable.
"The era of personalized medicine is coming and we want to continue to invest in IT, so we can apply all its potential," said Dr. Capponi. "When the genes of patients can be analyzed as part of their health record, doctors will be able to customize treatments that are specific to the individual. This personalized approach will make healthcare more effective, safer, and less expensive."
The DNA-based electronic patient health records Dr. Capponi dreams about may still be years away despite the extraordinary progress now being made in genomic research. But, HHC leaders agree the stimulus funds will bring a major boost to the healthcare industry and as much as $121 million to HHC, which will help upgrade the comprehensive electronic health records system HHC has used since the early 90s.
"HHC has been at the forefront of the kind of health information technology President Obama is hoping healthcare providers all across the country will now adopt to improve healthcare quality and reduce costs," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "The current economic climate would have threatened our ability to further upgrade our system in ways that improve both care and efficiency. The stimulus funds will allow us to continue with clinical IT investments that will simultaneously drive better care, support job creation and maintain HHC's role as a national leader."
Aviles, Dr. Capponi and Dr. Andrew Wallach, Section Chief of General Internal Medicine at Bellevue Hospital Center, discussed the stimulus bill at a press briefing February 19 and demonstrated several features of the current EHR system at HHC, which includes electronic order entry to prevent drug errors, built-in computer prompts to guide best-practice care for each patient, and data screens that help providers better manage patients with chronic disease. Less than 10% percent of hospitals in the U.S. have such a fully-developed system.
During the demonstration, Dr. Wallach called up a mock patient's medical records on a computer screen and illustrated how he can easily scroll through lab reports, Xrays, enter drug orders electronically and receive prompts that indicate the patient's drug allergies. He also described examples of built-in "decision support" prompts that support HHC's preventive health screening efforts, such as the depression screening tool built into the EHR.
The federal stimulus bill will direct more than $17 billion to hospitals and private physician practices that are considered meaningful users of electronic health records. The bill outlines the various formulas that will be used to direct funding to hospitals based upon their rates of Medicaid and Medicare inpatient discharges starting in 2011.
Click here to learn more about the HHC electronic health records system.