Hospitals Move Toward Electronic Records Exchange

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 12:00 am  

Ray Scott

On Feb. 11, the 471-bed Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff became the third hospital this year to join Arkansas’ network that will let health care providers access patients’ electronic medical records.

Giving health care providers instant access to a patient’s medical file should reduce errors and the duplication of tests while improving the management of a patient’s health, said Ray Scott, the head of the Arkansas Office of Health Information Technology, which operates the Arkansas health information exchange called SHARE — State Health Alliance for Records Exchange.

So far, North Arkansas Regional Medical Center of Harrison and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have also said they will participate in SHARE.

Scott said last week that six other hospitals are in the process of joining SHARE, and by the end of the year, he expects 12 to 15 of the approximately 100 hospitals in the state to be on SHARE.

Still, Scott said it could take years before most Arkansas hospitals have their patient records tethered to SHARE.

“We’ve only started implementing it,” Scott said. “This is still voluntary. I don’t have any authority to go out there and tell a health care provider, ‘You must connect and use SHARE.’”

One of the hurdles of getting on SHARE is the cost.

“We are reluctant to put out a ballpark number” on what it would cost to join SHARE, Scott said, because there are a number of variables involved, including whether the hospital even has an electronic medical record database.

By 2014, however, under Medicare rules, medical providers are supposed to have achieved some level of electronic record adoption, he said. If they don’t, they could eventually face penalties from Medicare.

It has been estimated that at least $500 million will be spent in Arkansas during the next several years converting medical records from paper to digital.

Once in SHARE, the hospital will have to pay a fee to SHARE, but that cost also varies, Scott said.

“For some hospitals, that could present more of a problem than others,” said Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association.



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