Agency aligns hospital record systems

If someone shows up in a Denver emergency room on Wednesday, a lot of time and money could be saved if doctors knew she’d had lab work done in Boulder the week before.

With immediate access to those lab results, the doctors could launch into a course of treatment that could be more efficient, as well as more effective for the patient.

This hypothetical scenario is one of the drivers behind a national movement toward making health records electronically accessible to all health-care providers.

Whereas the benefits of having such a system in place include all of the above, plus a reduction in administrative costs related to managing medical records, the process includes some tough challenges.

One of the main challenges is one of the main reasons that the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization exists.  Health-care providers and facilities have been entering patient information into electronic systems that don’t all speak the same language. 

CORHIO serves as a translating clearinghouse that makes the data readable and accessible by all.

With its health information exchange (HIE) technology, Denver-based CORHIO provides instant access to medical information in a format that can be read by all health-care organizations that are part of its system.  That info can include data from hospitals, clinicians, labs and imaging centers. 

The financial benefits of health-care providers having access to electronic health records are astronomical, according to Morgan Honea, CEO of CORHIO, one of about 100 nonprofit organizations that do this work nationally. 

“The technology has the potential to nationally save $10 billion annually in primary care alone,” Honea said. “An additional $800 million is spent on avoidable emergency room visits for conditions that could have been treated differently.”

But even if health-care providers could upload their info to one universal database, the information would be unreadable by providers who have different systems.

And they almost all do.

“In Colorado, we work with 35 different EHR vendors — the highest number in the country,” Honea said.  “Each one is very different.”

The solution is providing one electronic connection to the HIE, CORHIO  in this case, which serves as a clearinghouse that translates the medical information into a universal language so other users can then access it.

Having access to that information and being able to share it is what leads to another challenge: cost.

“Vendor costs range from a couple hundred dollars to $60,000,” Honea said. “In smaller clinical settings where the budget is tight, that cost is a barrier.”

The cost to join CORHIO starts at about $2,000, with a monthly subscription fee that starts at about $35, he said.

The cost has been a worthwhile investment, according to David Glow, EMR product manager with the Boulder Medical Center.  Prior to CORHIO, his department constructed seven or eight interfaces to local hospitals to be able to receive lab results, radiology reports and summaries for patients.

“There were a lot of moving parts,” he said, referring to the old system that included faxing information and receiving faxes.  “We now subscribe to feeds from large labs, hospitals and imaging centers.

“CORHIO gave us a chance to consolidate.”

If someone shows up in a Denver emergency room on Wednesday, a lot of time and money could be saved if doctors knew she’d had lab work done in Boulder the week before.

With immediate access to those lab results, the doctors could launch into a course of treatment that could be more efficient, as well as more effective for the patient.

This hypothetical scenario is one of the drivers behind a national movement toward making health records electronically accessible to all health-care providers.

Whereas the benefits of having such a system in place include all of the above, plus a reduction in administrative costs related to managing medical records, the process includes some tough challenges.

One of the main challenges is one of the main reasons that the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization exists.  Health-care providers and facilities have been entering patient information into electronic systems that don’t all speak the same language. 

CORHIO serves as a translating clearinghouse that makes the data readable and accessible by all.

With its health information exchange (HIE) technology, Denver-based CORHIO provides instant access to medical information in a format that can be read by all health-care organizations that are part of its system.  That info can include data from hospitals, clinicians, labs and imaging centers. 

The financial benefits of health-care providers having…