Inland Northwest Health Services, of Spokane, has been awarded a $583,000 grant by the Washington state Health Authority to launch a pilot project that will involve setting up an Internet-based health-record bank for patients here early next year.
INHS says it will seek to recruit about 5,000 users for the health-record bank between February and June 2009. Patients of three Spokane-area health care providersRockwood Clinic PS, Heart Clinics Northwest PS, and Physicians Clinic of Spokanewill be the first to be asked to sign up.
In the pilot project, INHS will devise a system to allow patients to register for the new health-record bank through an Internet-based application called Google Health.
Those patients then will be able to upload certain data from INHS's electronic medical-records system to the Internet-based individual health records that the patients will create. The data that patients will be able to upload from the medical records system likely will include information such as lab results, prescriptions, and immunization records, says INHS spokeswoman Nicole Stewart.
The goal of the pilot project is to allow individuals to maintain a complete copy of their personal health record, Stewart says. They can keep the record up to date with data they input and with data they import from their electronic medical records, and share the information with their health-care providers, without having to re-create it from bits of information they gather from prescriptions and medical information, she says.
One of the problems patients face today is that they must request hard copies of their medical records from their general practitioner's office to take their records to a specialist's office, says Jac Davies, director of INHS's Northwest TeleHealth regional outreach and Health at Work programs.
She says the new system will give patients more access to their own medical information and therefore the ability to take more responsibility for their care.
"In the past, patients haven't been able to look at that record unless they specifically ask for it," she says. "People usually have to get hard copies of their record and carry it by hand between offices. This should simplify that process."
Davies says the patient should be able to print the records, and eventually be able to grant a physician access to view the records online.
Stewart says INHS has laid the groundwork for the project with its electronic medical-records system, getting the participation of clinics and physicians, and now is seeking to provide a patient-driven linkage.
Currently, 38 hospitals and medical facilities in Washington, Idaho, and California, including all of the hospitals in Spokane, use INHS's electronic medical-records system, which allows all those providers to access the same medical record for a patient, she says.
Davies says technical details of the system still are being worked out, but using Google Health as the computer application for the personal health record will save INHS time and money because it won't have to develop the health-record application from scratch. Google Health is an Internet-based personal health information storage system developed by Mountainview, Calif.-based Google Inc. It allows people to enter their personal and medical information to develop a health profile and to update the profile.
The element that still needs to be developed is the interface for uploading pertinent data from the patient's electronic medical record while ensuring that the patient's privacy and security is protected, Davies says.
That will include a system for authenticating a person's identity when he or she registers for the health-record bank. She says INHS expects to have the system online early in 2009.
INHS plans to use some of the grant money for marketing the program through literature it will provide doctors' offices within the partner programs, and for holding educational seminars at some of those locations, where it also will help people register for the system, Davies says. She says that patients who see doctors at Rockwood Clinic and the other locations will be invited to participate. She says starting small with a pilot project will allow INHS to resolve more easily some of the issues that likely will arise in implementing a new system.
Two other similar pilot projects will be launched around the same time in Cashmere, Wash., and Bellingham, Wash., by other providers through the same grant program. Those pilot projects will use a Microsoft application called HealthVault as the framework for the individual health record.
INHS, formed collaboratively by Spokane-area hospitals in 1994 to handle a group of health services, operates St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute, the records-management system, Northwest TeleHealth video-conferencing network, and Northwest MedStar air-ambulance service.
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