Austin, TX (PRWEB) August 24, 2011
Despite the fact that Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country and health care costs to inmates are rapidly increasing nationally, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) through the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has teamed with Atlanta's Business Computer Applications, Inc. (BCA) to reign in expenses while streamlining inmate care.
Contracting with BCA the Texas system combined a statewide Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system with the world's largest telemedicine system outside of the Pentagon to create an EMR program that has saved Texas taxpayers nearly $1 billion dollars over the last 10 years according to the Gartner Group.
A 2004 Texas Medical Foundation audit found that the Texas EMR system contributed to improved health outcomes while significantly lowering patient cost per day. "BCA's EMR coupled with UTMB's and Texas Tech's telemedicine services have helped UTMB and Texas Tech provide improved access to specialists, continuity of care, and follow-up care while decreasing costs," says Michael J. Bourdeau, Director of Correctional Managed Care (CMC) Information Systems, UTMB.
In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court (Estelle vs. Gamble) established a constitutional standard for inmate healthcare guaranteeing a prison inmate's medical treatment thus making prison inmates the only Americans with a right to health care. To do otherwise, the high court said, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
In addition, in May a Supreme Court decision (Plata v. Brown) that ordered California to release tens of thousands of prison inmates, has put pressure on many state prison systems. But Texas may be a step ahead of that judicial bullet due to its pioneering health care IT prison program.
The California decision represents one of the largest prison releases in U.S. history and was driven, the court majority said, by "overcrowding, which has caused suffering and death." A federal overseer said earlier that California's prison system should consider freeing the sickest inmates to cut costs. California has two years to implement the court order.
Texas' system is recognized as being the second highest provider in quality healthcare in a correctional setting, second only to US government hospitals. The Texas system has also been called a national model for the way it taps into university resources with oversight from a state committee controlled by doctors.
The BCA EMR system is used across the board by UTMB and Texas Tech which provide the medical care in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison system. The system is used in providing medical, dental, mental health and pharmacy services not only in the state prisons, but also in county jails and the Texas Youth Commission (TYC).
The statewide system serves some 120 state, 15 youth and three federal prisons and has been recognized for helping the state of Texas recognize a 45 percent reduction in medical tests deemed to be unnecessary. A past study indicated the program has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the number of transfers from prison facilities to physician offices and a 38 percent reduction in transfers from inmate housing to emergency rooms says Bourdeau.
The Texas adult inmate population currently stands at approximately 150,000 inmates and costs the state of Texas excess of $3 billion a year to operate. The BCA EMR system covers 145 locations and handles 19 million interactions a month.
As a result of the EMR program Bourdeau says the inmate medical cost per day compared to other states has been drastically reduced to $9.67.This compares to $41.25 for California, the only state with a higher incarceration rate than Texas. The BCA EMR system has proven to work effectively in one of the country's largest prison systems, he says.
A joint U.S. Department of Justice-U.S. Department of Defense Joint Program Steering Group Report concluded in a cost-benefit analysis that a telemedicine consultation would cost an average of $71 compared to $175 for a conventional face-to-face consultation - a 60 percent savings.
States are increasingly turning to IT solutions as they anticipate health care expenditures to continue to increase rapidly as prison populations continue to swell. This is due to aging, tougher sentencing laws, longer prison sentences, as well as increases in chronic illnesses diabetes and heart disease, infectious diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis and mentally ill and homeless patients being housed in prisons and jails.
From 1988 to 1998 the US prison population doubled according to the U.S. Justice Department making the U.S. the number one incarcerator worldwide. In 1978 the U.S. inmate population was approximately 750,000 people. Today that number is reported to be in excess of over 2.3 million individuals.
Business Computer Applications, Inc. (BCA) is a leading provider of health information technology solutions and has served hundreds of clients in public, private, and correctional healthcare. The company offers electronic medical record, practice management, financial management, scheduling, accounting, and case management information systems along with a wide range of consulting and technical services. For more information on BCA visit http://www.bca.us.