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Rochester records pilot finds success

More than 100,000 patients have given consent for their medical records to be filed electronically in the Greater Rochester region.
The Rochester Regional Health Information Organization, developed in 2006, started the electronic medical exchange among area hospitals as a small pilot in 2007. Today it partners with more than 1,700 authorized health care providers, including 500 physicians.
The Rochester RHIO got a healthy start from a $4.4 million state grant and another $1.9 million from local businesses, hospitals and health insurers who believe strongly that electronic health information exchange could lower health care expenses over time.
The RHIO is a secure electronic health information exchange available to authorized medical providers in Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties, and provides consenting patients’ medical records between health care providers via the Internet. RHIO officials say patients benefit from “fewer repeated tests, easier second opinions, a reduced risk of mistakes caused by poor handwriting or incomplete records, and more informed care during office visits and emergencies,” according to statement issued earlier this week.
Available information includes test results, lab reports, radiology results, medication history and insurance eligibility, among other data.
While the RHIO’s program isn’t meant to replace electronic medical records or practice notes, information can supplement a physician’s electronic medical records file. The two continue to have separate functionalities.
Expansion of the Rochester RHIO is in the works, as more information from elder services organizations and emergency medical services is being included.
Given privacy and identity theft concerns, Rochester RHIO’s also notes that “a panel comprised of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, compliance officers from hospitals in the nine-county region is ensuring that patient privacy is protected. … Its sole purpose is to ensure that the RHIO’s electronic exchange conforms to laws and safeguards that protect patient privacy.”
Part of the planned expansion is an online portal for patients, likely available next year, at which patients can sign in and select the health care providers whom they want to provide access to their information.
Could health information exchange be the sole way to access health information in the future≠
Health care providers now participating in RHIO provide consent forms to all patients, but not all have agreed to participate.
RHIO officials point out that some states use an “opt-out” model, which allows patients to actively request to not be part of it. New York is an “opt-in” state, so patients here must actually state that “yes,” doctors may view their information electronically.
“RHIO is not pushing for it to be mandated,” Ted Kremer, executive director of Rochester RHIO, said. “We are just here to provide a more efficient way of exchanging and accessing health information. However, it looks like the federal government is leaning toward mandating electronic health information.”
Kremer said that at the federal level, funding is an incentive encouraging greater RHIO participation.
“We may be looking at $40,000 per physician,” Kremer said, adding that it’s all about ensuring more meaningful use of health records.
“There will be significant funding from the federal level,” Kremer said. “There will also be an increase in reimbursement through Medicare. Regarding health care, the federal government will eventually hold the stick instead of the carrot.”
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