SCARBOROUGH, ME – Coastal Women's Healthcare, aseven-physician practice located in a town of nearly 20,000residents along the Southern Maine coast, is among a group of elitemeaningful users of electronic health records nationwide. The practice was the first -- and the only one in Maine -- toreceive incentives last year for achieving meaningful use Stage 1. [See also: Maine REC gives glimpse into what providers can expect ] Congressional representatives, officials from the Centers forMedicaid & Medicare Services and several healthcare IT leadersin Maine turned out at the practice May 10 to applaud the group andafford them the national recognition they said the practicedeserved for improving patient care. There are many more Maine physicians rolling out digital systemsand preparing to meet the government"s touchstones for usingthem meaningfully. |
The Maine Regional Extension Center (MEREC)– one of 62 similar centers nationwide – is helpingthem through the process. In the case of Coastal Women"s Healthcare, however, the RECofficials did not have to offer their help. The practice"sexecutive director, Beverly Neugebauer asked for it. [See also: Maine's HIE lands grant to connect to claims database ] "When can we get connected?" is what she asked when shecalled MEREC, said Todd Rogow, director of IT and MEREC atHealthInfoNet, Maine"s statewide health information exchange.
"While our providers" exceptional care of theirpatients is clearly our priority, the added element of new, securetechnology helps us improve patient care while also increasingpatient convenience," Neugebauer said. "For example,electronic medical records have helped us ensure our patients aregetting the best quality care, while our online patient portalmakes it easy for our patients to complete necessary medicalhistory forms, access their lab results or requestappointments." The practice deployed an EHR system from Atlanta-based Greenway Medical Technologies . It's had its patient portal online for a year with an estimated15 percent of its 10,000 patients using it, and last week, itconnected to the HealthInfoNet HIE. Barbara Slager, MD, president of Coastal Women"s Healthcare,is known as the physician champion for IT at the group, and she isalso an advocate of the exchange – or, as ONC chief Farzad Mostashari might say, "thinking of HIE as a verb." Slager explained that the HIE goes one step further, allowing herto see tests and procedures done at other facilities, which helpsher better coordinate her patients" care and reduceduplication. "For example, if a patient has heavy periods and had a bloodcount done through their primary care doctor, I can pull up herlatest numbers and recommend appropriate therapy," she said."Eventually, I will be able to see her pelvic ultrasound too,including the actual images.
This reduces redundant care, animportant factor in current healthcare costs." As Slager put it, the team at Coastal Women"s Healthcarelikes to think of itself as "high-tech and high-touch." She said the project was "daunting," and expensive -- ahalf million dollars -- but worth it for improving care. Rick Hoover, from the CMS regional office in Boston, gave the group kudos for being"cutting edge" and "taking charge." "This is exactly what CMS is trying to do with the incentiveprogram," he said, "exactly what Coastal Women"sis doing right now." "This is difficult stuff," added Gordon Smith,executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association."This is proof that it can be done." [See also: Maine HIE impresses nation's IT chief ].
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