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Hospitals join electronic program to qualify for $7M

From left: Karen Pellegrin, principal investigator from the county Beacon Community Consortium; Dr. Robert Irvine, chairman of the East Hawaii Regional Board; Monday Atwal, East Hawaii Regional CIO and CFO of HHSC; and Colleen Alicuben, Health Connect Project Director. (Hawaii 24/7 photo special by Elena Cabatu)

Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Elena Cabatu | Community Relations Manage Hilo Medical Center

East Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) has announced its commitment to meet the “Meaningful Use” deadline for its Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.

Reaching the December 2011 goal means the East Hawaii Region of HHSC may qualify for upwards of $7 million in stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The announcement coincided with more 100 other hospitals from across the country that are adopting the goal of achieving meaningful use. The EMR system selected for the region was developed by MEDITECH.

January marks the first time in U.S. nation’s history that hospitals and eligible healthcare providers can register their intent to achieve meaningful use of certified EMRs and qualify for incentive payments under the HITECH Act portion of ARRA.

Howard Ainsley

This program is accelerating the transformation of healthcare that was already happening, moving the country closer to nationwide interoperable electronic patient records. Hospitals that fail to effectively implement an EMR will face decreased payments for patients covered by government-insurance programs such as Medicare, beginning in 2013.

“The Regional Board is most appreciative of the Health Connect team and realizes this has been an extra burden for everyone,” said Dr. Robert Irvine, chairman of East Hawaii Regional Board for HHSC. “We applaud the Health Connect Team for their hard work and success. We anticipate improvement of care for all of our patients as a result of this.”

“The fact that we stand to receive approximately $7 million in stimulus funds is exceptional news for the people of Hawaii County,” said Howard N. Ainsley, East Hawaii Region CEO of East Hawaii Region of HHSC. “This EMR will provide safer care and it is in the best interest of our patients. I would like to commend our dedicated employees and physicians for their hard work and commitment to get this done.”

“I can assure you that our journey will not end here with Meaningful Use,” said Money Atwal, East Hawaii Regional CIO and CFO of East Hawaii Region of HHSC. “HMC will continue to invest in new technology that will improve clinical outcomes, promote physician alignment, enhance patient and employee satisfaction, and assist in strengthening the financial sustainability of the hospital.”

Atwal added: “Our project team continues to work with our physicians and clinicians to optimize the workflows to support the new technology. A tremendous amount of work and energy is being put forth by our employees to improve the patient experience through new technology and training.”

In 2009, the East Hawaii Region began to organize funds, staff and resources to transition to the EMR system.

On May 1, 2010, Hilo Medical Center was the first state hospital to launch the EMR to improve patient care and safety and the hospital’s financial performance. HMC’s EMR system, named Health Connect by employees, is projected to cost $5 million over 3 years.

In preparation for HMC’s transition, more than 800 employees and 200 active staff physicians completed Health Connect training classes.

In December 2010, East Hawaii Region sister hospital, Ka’u Hospital, and HMC’s outpatient clinics (including the residency program’s clinic) initiated their EMR transition.

Hale Hoola Hamakua is scheduled to be brought onto the system in late 2011 with community physician offices to follow.

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