North Texas digital patient record exchange launched
Thursday April 12, 2012
Dallas Morning News – by Jim Landers
A health information exchange designed to link 140 hospitals and more than 12,000 physicians across North Texas was launched Thursday with a contract award to Orion Health Inc., a New Zealand software company.
The cost of the contract was not disclosed, but it comes under a $4.9 million state grant given last year for a North Texas Accountable Healthcare Partnership.
The contract with Orion Health marks the culmination of more than six years of negotiations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area aimed at letting health care providers share information on patients. It aims to improve care coordination while avoiding duplicate tests, incorrect medications and other errors often linked to lack of awareness about a patient’s medical history.
The North Texas Accountable Healthcare Partnership, a body tying together health care providers, insurers and employers, was launched after a 2009 summit called to rein in the high cost of care in the Dallas area.
Also on Thursday, the partnership announced that Joseph W. Lastinger, a former senior executive with Dallas-based T-System Inc., has been named the partnership’s CEO. T-System specializes in emergency room medical information systems.
Michael Darrouzet, chief executive of the Dallas County Medical Society and chairman of the North Texas Accountable Healthcare Partnership, said the information exchange would tie together large hospital networks like Texas Health Resources and Baylor Health Care System and individual physician practices across a 12-county area.
Many of the area’s hospitals and large physician practices already have electronic medical records. Orion Health will create a platform where the different systems can communicate and exchange patient information.
Most physicians in North Texas work out of small practices. They have been reluctant to spend the tens of thousands of dollars usually needed to create a digital medical records system.
“For physicians who don’t have their own system yet, they can get in at a very low cost — less than a cable bill each month,” Darrouzet said.
Under the Orion Health model, Darrouzet said, physicians will be able to subscribe to a “cloud”-based electronic medical record resource — entering data on their own patients, while accessing information on medical histories at other facilities.
“The key thing for us to understand is that the safety and security of that data is paramount. We’ve got to start from the beginning with that,” Darrouzet said.
Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council and a board member of the partnership, said the first goal for the information exchange was to improve patient care coordination.
“Now our practitioners will not be operating in silos,” Love said. “They’ll work together, for the best delivery of health care for the patient, and that will impact positively patient safety.”
Darrouzet said he hopes the information exchange will begin this summer among providers already using electronic medical records and extend through North Texas over the next three to five years. He said savings were anticipated but had not been estimated.
“Nursing homes, independent pharmacies — the idea is to include everyone,” he said, “but a lot of software has to come together.”