September 2009 (Seattle, WA) -- Thirty-four physician practices, health clinics and hospitals, primarily in small and rural communities throughout the Pacific Northwest, are getting help to improve health care for their patients through information technology. Twenty-one of them are in Washington state.
Health care providers throughout Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Oregon have been selected to receive up to $20,000 from an innovative public-private partnership, the Washington Health Information Collaborative (WHIC). The organization is comprised of First Choice Health, the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), the Puget Sound Health Alliance and Qualis Health. Once again this year, First Choice Health is contributing $500,000 to the awards fund. The Health Care Authority is contributing an additional $50,000 to provide funding for programming or technical support to enhance, modify or expand existing electronic health record system or registry data collection, management and reporting capabilities. Organizational and in-kind services for the WHIC are contributed by the Alliance and Qualis. This is the fifth year of the awards program that has now distributed more than $3 million to health care providers since 2005.
"Both First Choice Health and the HCA are focusing our awards this year on those practices that are participating in the Washington Patient-Centered Medical Home Collaborative," says First Choice Health Vice President Bob Hinman. "We wish to continue the support of smaller practices with their technological advancement, but also want to help with the development of the Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care."
"This is one of several initiatives in which the State of Washington is promoting the use of health information technology," says Steve Hill, Administrator of the Washington State Health Care Authority. "Along with projects involving health record banks and several stimulus-related projects being proposed by the state, Washington is becoming a leader in the use of technology to improve the delivery of health care services."
Too many doctors' offices and hospitals still rely on paper files, FAXes, phone calls and faulty memories. When medical histories are piecemeal, that affects health care quality and cost. The American health care system is finally starting to use the same type of technology that banks have used for years in ATMs and that most businesses in nearly every other industry use to operate effectively and efficiently.
The health information technology awards are intended to improve health care safety, quality and cost by enabling physicians and other practitioners to instantly and securely access accurate individual patient medical records, in addition to looking at aggregated data among all their patients for improved decision-making. As health care quality comparison reports become more common, physicians and hospitals are adopting technology to help them more consistently provide care that is effective in keeping their patients as healthy as possible.