EHR projects abound in Long Island

Electronic health records projects are dotting Long Island like summer beach-goers, with major initiatives underway at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola and Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue. Although some are not as far along as Winthrop or Brookhaven, hospitals across Long Island are booting up millions of dollars worth of software that administrators hope will greatly reduce medication errors. The issue of such errors arose earlier this summer on Long Island when the state Health Department confirmed it is probing the May death of 1-year-old Amee Martin of Mastic. The child's mother says the baby died at Stony Brook University Hospital when she was given an overdose of papaverine, a drug that expands blood vessels. The Institute of Medicine recently reported that, on average, a hospitalized patient is subjected to one medication error a day. This causes thousands of deaths a year and injuries to more than 1.5 million, the Institute's report said. Even if the Island's hospitals are struggling to raise the money to install the complex systems, none disagree with the institute's recommendation that all prescriptions be written electronically by 2010.

In June, Winthrop introduced on its surgical units one of the Island's first "computerized provider entry system"--software that allows health providers to access one system that has all of a patient's information. The tool should be available throughout the hospital by early next year, said Steven Fishbane, chairman of the hospital's committee for clinical information systems. According to Charles Inlander, president of the advocacy group People's Medical Society and an author of the Institute's report, less than 6 percent of hospitals nationwide have the kind of computerized order entry system in place at Winthrop. Two to 5 percent of hospitals in the country have the kind of bar-code protection in use at Brookhaven, he said. The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System plans to spend between $150 million to $200 million over the next four to five years to add computerized safety measures at its 10 hospitals, according to Dr. Michael Oppenheim, the system's chief medical information officer. North Shore has one computerized order entry system serving as a pilot program--at Forest Hills Hospital in Queens.

Stony Brook University Hospital is planning to spend $35 million for a computerized physician order entry system that should be ready by spring of next year and for a bar coding system that should be ready within the next three to four years, said spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow. And Catholic Health Services is spending $70 million in the next five years for similar systems for its five hospitals. Long Beach Medical Center is spending $8 million updating its system, which it hopes will be online within the next 18 months.

For more on EHR's expansion on Long Island:
- check out this Newsday article