Health care workers discuss best way to share information in new era


Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

A critical component of health care reform — health information management — took center stage on Thursday morning at a health care summit at Santa Fe College.

As hospitals throughout the nation transition from one disease classification to another, codes for those conditions will multiply, putting the onus on health care professionals to correctly enter in data, interpret and share it.

Julie Shay, the program director healthcare information technology (HIT) management programs at Santa Fe, said “implementation is the beast,” adding that data lead to information, and “information is knowledge” that’s needed to make good clinical decisions.

Shay cited World Health Organization data that places the U.S. 37th in terms of health care outcomes, which trails Canada at 30th — despite the fact that the U.S. has the world’s highest health care expenditures.

“Quality is what it’s about, and quality outcomes need good data and information exchange,” Shay said. “That exchange is going to happen electronically.”

Physicians at the summit said they are excited about the future of electronic health records. Dr. David Willis, a family medicine doctor in Ocala who is also the medical director of Heart of Florida Healthcare, said the system allows doctors to identify patients who are not following through with their care because all medical visits, prescriptions and pharmacy visits will be recorded in the system.

“The average Medicare patient sees more than seven physicians; you put all the information together and we’re going to make better decisions,” he said.

For patients, treatment becomes more efficient too, Willis said, adding this means “being able to conduct health care from your living room, without taking a day off work or getting a baby-sitter.”

Willis explained that a personal, face-to-face relationship with patients must predate any online or remote prescriptions.

He also said he treats a lot of indigent patients in Ocala who might not have access to computers, so the city’s Homeless Council and public library will provide computer access points for patients.

Dr. Sarah Frazier, a psychiatrist and the medical director of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, said caring for patients has been much easier since Meridian started using electronic prescriptions a year ago.

“Some patients are not able to communicate,” Frazier said, adding that they will say they’ve taken a “red pill.”

“It takes time to track things down.”

With electronic records, that information has to be entered into patients’ records, which both streamlines therapy and makes it safer, Frazier continued.

For example, if a psychotic patient comes in on Friday night — when Meridian’s medical records office is closed — employees can treat the patient with the right medications based on what’s in the person’s electronic health records.

Protecting patient data

Putting health care online puts the onus on providers, patients and everyone in between to protect the data.

MaryAnn Fiala is the chief strategy officer of the National Health Information Sharing Analysis Center. “Access is much more private online than on paper,” she said, adding that people should still be wary of medical identity fraud, which ultimately leads to insurance fraud.

Unlike credit cards, “You cannot change your health record,” Fiala said, adding that the effects of medical identity fraud, apart from being financially damaging, can harm your health.

“You were allergic to penicillin, and with a click of a button you’re not,” Fiala said.

Part of the summit focused on the evolution of jobs in the health care sector — especially the boon of jobs involving IT skills.

Registered health information technicians (RHITs), for example, now will be charged with reviewing medical records, freeing up registered nurses who once did this, said Desla Mancilla, the senior director of academic affairs at the AHIMA Foundation, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to research and education on health information management, known as HIM.

“We need more nurses at the bedside,” Mancilla said. “It seems counter-productive to take them away.”

The demand for RHITs will increase exponentially, Mancilla added, citing pharmaceutical companies as an example of places that will employ RHITs to review medical records.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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