New York awards $105 million in health IT projects

The grants eventually will benefit more than half of the patients in the state, the health commissioner says.

By Dave Hansen — Posted April 28, 2008

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An electronic medical records system connecting patients in New York is one step closer to reality after Gov. David A. Paterson awarded $105 million in grants on March 28 to 19 community-based health information technology projects.

The grants are part of a statewide effort to implement health IT and improve health care, said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD. "For the first time, thousands of patients in New York will have access to their own complete electronic medical records, and their doctors will be able to access medical information through a few clicks of a mouse," he said.

The grants will reduce medical errors and redundant tests, Dr. Daines said. For example, some of the projects funded will alert physicians to medical needs, such as an overdue pneumonia vaccination for elderly patients. Other initiatives will inform physicians when a diabetic patient is due for an annual eye exam in an effort to prevent blindness.

The recipients will build a technical infrastructure that will support health care improvements for all New Yorkers, state officials said. The grants eventually will change health care delivery for 45% of the state's hospitals, Dr. Daines said. He predicted that 55% of all patients in the state would derive some benefit from them, and 20% of physicians would use the system in its initial stages.

The Bronx Regional Health Information Organization is one recipient. It will use $9.9 million to secure patient data so that its 3,200 physicians eventually can share it as laboratory results, prescribed medications, diagnoses, procedures and demographic information, said the Bronx RHIO. The first six of its 28 members will start sharing data in May. The grant will boost efficiency and lower costs by helping doctors prevent prescription errors and avoid duplicate tests, said Scott Cooper, MD, CEO of St. Barnabas Hospital, a Bronx RHIO member.

Strict privacy protections will be in place, added Bronx RHIO Executive Director Barbara Radin. Data can be shared only with written consent, and patients who decline to sign will not be included in the database.

In addition, each member organization must identify all physicians and nurses who will use the data, Radin explained. Each user will be given a user name and password, so they will be identified when requesting patient data.

Another recipient is the Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, with 4,464 physicians. It will receive two grants, one for $9.9 million and the other for $2.8 million. The exchange will use the money to implement personal health records controlled by the patient, said Director Irene Kuhn.

Patients who participate in Housing Works, a program that serves homeless and low-income people with HIV/AIDS, will be able to input onto a Web site their medical information along with their social service and transportation needs, Kuhn said. This will give local governments a rounded view of people's needs, she said.

The Brooklyn exchange also will create a special health IT program for patients who are HIV positive or who are elderly, Kuhn said. The system will analyze data and recommend medical actions that could be taken to improve patient care, she said.

All of the projects are required to participate in a statewide collaboration process to align the development of policies and technical approaches.

"For electronic health records and new quality tools to realize their potential, they must be interoperable," said Lori Evans, deputy commissioner of the Office of Health Information Technology Transformation, who will coordinate the projects' work to advance the state's health IT strategy.

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