Massachusetts launches 3 EHR pilot projects

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The Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) last week launched three pilot projects which will be the first large-scale demonstrations in the country to test implementation of electronic health records (EHR) for use in patient care at a community level, with an eye on the national stage. The initiative has been developed with the help of 34 member communities throughout the state, according to a MAeHC release.
   
The launch took place in Brockton, Mass., at Brockton Hospital Good Samaritan Medical Center, one of the three selected facilities. The other two locations are Anna Jaques Hospital in Greater Newburyport and North Adams Regional Hospital in the Northern Berkshire community. The communities were selected because they were judged to have resounding support from local healthcare stakeholders.

In attendance were David Brailer, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney along with community representatives and MAeHC members.  

"It's a scandal that in this century of life sciences, lives are being lost every day because of medical mistakes that could easily be avoided if care were better coordinated," Sen. Kennedy said according to a release of his comments. "We obviously need to be better prepared on this front, and bring health technology into the 21st century,"
   
The program will begin to create a means by which interconnected networks can be used in Massachusetts to improve the quality of healthcare state-wide by studying the program's effectiveness and practicality on a community level at first. Especially important, the MAeHC said, is establishing a way to implement such networks that is financially sound and maintainable while remaining sensitive to patient privacy.

The first phase of the initiative will take place over the next 24 to 36 months and will involve the practices of more than 600 physicians who will be provided with electronic medical record (EMR), decision support tools, and clinical data exchange capabilities. This investment will be used to provide care for over a half a million people at nearly 200 sites, MAeHC said.
   
This investment is made possible through a $50 million commitment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to fund the demonstration phase of the pilot programs. According to the MAeHC, creating a program of this nature state-wide would likely cost an estimated $1 billion. If the program is successful, it is very likely that development of plans for other communities or for perhaps a state-wide roll out will begin.
   
"These pilot projects are just the beginning. MAeHC will be actively looking beyond the pilot projects to share the lessons, infrastructure, expertise, and arrangements that we create for the pilots with all other communities in the Commonwealth," said Micky Tripathi, President and CEO, MAeCH.