Houston, TX (PRWEB) September 10, 2012
CHRISTUS Health, Texas Children’s Hospital, UTMB at Galveston, and Legacy Community Health Services have signed with Healthconnect to be among the first major healthcare institutions in Southeast Texas to exchange patient records electronically with authorized providers outside their respective organizations. These participation agreements signal a new era for healthcare delivery in the region. Patients and providers will benefit by having real time access to patient information, which promises to enhance safety and continuity of care and eliminate unnecessary costs. These agreements underscore the organizations’ commitment to quality patient care and the need to enhance communication around the patient.
Launch of this electronic health information network in Southeast Texas coincides with the release of a federal report pointing out needed improvements in the region’s public health performance. For several years, development of a health information network to address some of these shortfalls has been discussed and planned at the community level. However, this marks the first collaboration between hospitals and physicians to become operational.
Catherine Mosbacher, President and CEO of the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) has been involved since the beginning. “Business and community leaders recognized that we could be using our resources more effectively to improve our public-health benchmarks. It was clear that a health information exchange was a missing component in Houston’s health infrastructure. So we joined with the Harris County Healthcare Alliance to form a community-based, not-for-profit organization that would reflect the needs of both community and providers. The launch of this network is a very important step for our community, and it will save lives by making timely information available in critical situations.”
Healthconnect early adopters include:
CHRISTUS Health, which operates eight hospitals in this region from Houston to Beaumont, has supported the concept of a network from its early stages of development. George Conklin, CHRISTUS Health senior vice president and chief information officer, remarked, “Patient well-being is at the heart of what we do and we expect that the ability to forward medical information electronically will provide patients with greater convenience and empower them to manage their own health information. This will be very important as patients become increasingly more involved in their care management, especially for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes.” These CHRISTUS hospitals see over 150,000 patients in the ER per year and discharge over 35,000 patients annually.
Texas Children’s Hospital has played an integral role in planning and developing the Healthconnect information network. Recognizing the potential for enhanced patient care for the more than 110,000 pediatric patients who visit their ER each year, Texas Children’s wanted to be among the first providers to begin sharing patient information. Myra Davis, vice president of Information Services at Texas Children’s Hospital, who will oversee the integration with Healthconnect, commented on the advantage of a single unifying system, “This network will enable us to send and receive critical patient information with other facilities without having to build a separate interface for each hospital.” Texas Children’s Hospital is the largest children’s hospital in the nation and is recognized nationally for pediatric care and operates two hospitals in this region.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston first initiated an independent health information exchange but later merged with Healthconnect, recognizing the advantages of collaborating within overlapping service areas. According to Ben Raimer, senior vice president for Health Policy & Legislative Affairs for the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, “UTMB frequently sees patients from Houston and the Beaumont area who arrive in the ER with little or no documentation regarding their prior medical history. As participants in the Healthconnect integrated network, physicians at UTMB will be able to ascertain quickly any pertinent information that will assist them to care for patients who are new to our system.”
Legacy Community Health Services operates six clinics throughout the Houston area and plays a critical role as a safety net provider for many patients who would otherwise go without care. According to Legacy's Executive Director, Katy Caldwell, “Were it not for community health clinics many of our patients would have to rely on emergency departments for their primary care. That’s an expensive solution and offers no continuity over the long term. Healthconnect will help us to work more efficiently by providing important information about services that have been provided to our clients at other healthcare facilities. We’ll be able to receive that information quickly so we can do the best job of addressing each patient’s needs.” Legacy provides services to 45,000 patients annually.
Greater Houston Healthconnect is one of a dozen health information organizations in Texas receiving seed capital in the form of a federal grant administered through Health and Human Services Commission. Jim Langabeer, President and CEO of Healthconnect explains, “The implementation grant we received through the HHSC enabled us to finally get this off the ground with the support of our diverse board of community and healthcare leaders. The participation of these first healthcare institutions signals a pivotal change in how healthcare can be delivered. With connectivity, providers can innovate and coordinate care in ways never before possible; but it will take continued collaboration and commitment from participants and the community.”
Healthconnect employs an opt-in model of consent. Patients will be given the option of enrolling in the network so their information can be forwarded electronically and available to their next provider. ”Our mission is to improve patient care,” says Langabeer, “and patients can make a wise choice to participate.” Healthconnect expects to receive signed participation agreements from more major healthcare institutions within the coming months and has a goal of connecting 80% of the hospitals by 2017.
About Greater Houston Healthconnect
Greater Houston Healthconnect is an independent, community-based organization established to enable information exchange among healthcare providers in the Greater Houston area, which encompasses a 20-county region in Southeast Texas. Its goal is to mobilize healthcare information electronically across organizations thus enhancing the safety, quality, and efficiency of care throughout the region. Key stakeholders include healthcare providers, payers, employers and the community as a whole. For more information, visit http://www.ghhconnect.org/.