Telemedicine and EHR use for inmates helps save state $1B

While electronic health records generally are touted as being able to save money for the providers implementing such systems, one has been quite successful in saving money for taxpayers in Texas, as well. 

A statewide EMR developed by Atlanta-based Business Computer Applications, Inc. (BCA), combined with a telemedicine system from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Tech University, successfully improved health outcomes for prisoners while reducing overall costs, leading to $1 billion in savings over the last 10 years for the state's taxpayers, according to IT research firm Gartner Group. 

The news comes as more and more locales continue to spend big bucks on medical records systems for prison systems. Georgia, for instance, recently renewed a contract that allows for state agencies--like the Georgia Department of Corrections--to access EMR systems for care and cost savings purposes, according to an opinion piece by BCA CEO Albert Woodward published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month. The city of Philadelphia, meanwhile, opted to use an EMR from eClinicalWorks this past May. 

Additionally, in May 2010, Maricopa County, Ariz., paid $10 million to install a health records system for inmates to improve subpar care conditions. The following month, Los Angeles County approved $17 million for an EMR system for its juvenile detention facilities. 

"These systems enable correctional facilities to diagnose and treat inmates in-house, thereby reducing the need for transportation and security to transfer them to outside medical facilities," Woodward wrote. "It enables healthcare providers to better document patient care and to have access to their charts from anywhere in the world, allowing them to easily and cost effectively prepare, review, plan and treat inmate medical, dental and mental health problems."

To learn more:
- read this BCA announcement
- here's the opinion piece in the AJC