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Detailing Rhode Island Physicians' Technology Use

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Consider this – you have a medical emergency in the middle of the night. Your regular physician is on vacation, and a colleague is covering the practice. That covering physician needs to have access to your medical history so he can make an informed decision about your treatment at that moment. This is one situation where an electronic medical record can make a difference in the care a patient receives.

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) released two reports that show how many individual providers use Health Information Technology on a regular basis. Rhode Island is the first state in the country to measure this.

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Nearly 40 percent of Rhode Island physicians report using electronic clinical information systems to help care for their patients. In addition, about 25 percent of physicians transmit their prescriptions electronically, or e-prescribe. “One of the State’s healthcare priorities is to use HIT to increase the efficient delivery of patient care,” said HEALTH Public Reporting Program Director Samara Viner-Brown, MS. “These data help us to see how many physicians are actually using HIT. Patients can see if their physician uses electronic medical records or can find a physician who uses electronic medical records.”

The survey reflects a three-year collaboration to encourage physician reporting in Rhode Island. In 1998, a legislative mandate required HEALTH to publicly report healthcare quality for licensed providers. In 2006, the law was expanded to include reports from individual physicians. HEALTH and public reporting partner Quality Partners of Rhode Island (Quality Partners) identified HIT adoption as a local priority and developed the survey to assess physicians’ technology use. "Rhode Island becomes part of a growing national trend to measure and report how physicians provide care,” says Quality Partners’ Physician Consultant Deidre Gifford MD, MPH, one of the survey’s lead authors.

“One thing that distinguishes our reporting program is the work of our healthcare community to align the public reporting with payment reform and direct assistance to practices in improving care delivery. When those three pieces of the puzzle are all aligned, we expect to see dramatic changes in the way that care is delivered and improved satisfaction among consumers and providers.”

The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI) will use the survey results to evaluate local trends in HIT adoption. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthCare of New England plan to use the survey’s results to guide their HIT-based incentive programs. “We’re pleased to have worked with HEALTH and Quality Partners to measure Rhode Island’s progress towards HIT adoption,” said RIQI President and CEO Laura Adams. “While we understand that technology is not a cure-all, it is certainly a critical foundation for so many of our efforts to improve healthcare quality, safety, and value.”



As physicians adopt EMRs, patients also will be able to create comprehensive PHRs that will save doctors manhours and save lives, too. The issue of privacy is huge, but if well-protected, enables patients to be the advocates that doctors want, and doctors to be able to create effective care solutions that ensure a positive outcome. Microsoft's HealthVault and Google Health are working on the patient side to help encourage patients to adopt. but it takes the physicians to get there, too.