Massachusetts provides roadmap for broader EMR implementation

April 28, 2005

While electronic medical record adoption lags in the rest of the nation, the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative has selected three communities to take part in a pilot program to test concepts that will eventually be part of a statewide EMR implementation.

While electronic medical record adoption lags in the rest of the nation, the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative has selected three communities to take part in a pilot program to test concepts that will eventually be part of a statewide EMR implementation.

Micky Tripathi, chief executive of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, announced the selection of greater Brockton, greater Newburyport, and northern Berkshire at the spring congress of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Less than a third of the nation's hospital emergency and outpatient departments used EMRs during a period measured from 2001 to 2003, according to a March 15 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The success of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative project could have larger implications for EMR adoption across the nation by providing a blueprint for large-scale healthcare information technology implementation.

"These pilot communities offer a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. They will offer good models that we can replicate in order to move quickly toward statewide implementation," he said.

The three communities were chosen out of 35 respondents to a December 2004 call for applications for the pilot program.

"The fact that we got 35 applications was a call to action for us. We are putting together a program that's going to offer a wide variety of services and allow access to the information infrastructures that we develop in the pilot program to those other communities," he said.

The collaborative will use $50 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to fund the three-year project. It will examine the effects of implementing an EMR in a community setting. The pilot communities were chosen based on their location, patient diversity, IT maturity, strength of local leadership, and openness to IT innovation, among other factors, according to Tripathi.

The three communities cover about 600 physicians treating roughly half a million patients. Of the nearly 200 sites participating in the project, over 80% are small physician practices with one to five physician offices.

"We eventually want to move from these pilot programs to statewide broad-based EMR implementation. Of course, in my experience, this won't be a straightforward process. There will be many times where we take one step forward and three steps back. But it will pay off as long as we are making progress over time," he said.

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