What if your healthcare history — complete with records from recent hospital visits, diagnostic tests, drug allergies and the like — was available to your doctor, or an emergency room physician, with just a few keystrokes? The Middle Tennessee eHealth Connect thinks you’d get better care with less cost to the healthcare system.
The MTeHC, a nonprofit comprised of leaders from Nashville’s hospitals, health care associations and government, is working to build a health information exchange that could accomplish that goal. By the end of the year, the organization hopes to have local hospital emergency departments freely sharing electronic patient information. The exchange could expand later to include clinic and ambulatory settings.
The idea is that with instant electronic access to a patient’s medical history, physicians can make more informed decisions about that patient’s care while avoiding duplicate (and costly) tests, adverse drug reactions or other problems.
Similar benefits have already been realized across the state. Memphis and the Tri-Cities area have been operating health information exchanges since 2006 and 2008, respectively. Bob Gordon, executive vice president of Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis, said a study is underway to determine the economic impact of the local exchange — but he already knows anecdotally that it is “making a difference in the way patients are cared for.”
Of course, reaching that point and beyond in Nashville will come with challenges. The region’s normally fiercely competitive hospital executives must build collective trust — putting competition aside to share information that will ultimately benefit patients.
Then there’s money: MTeHC has received some private grant funding, and it expects to collect federal and local dollars, including contributions from participating hospitals. But a sustainable revenue model is still on the drawing board.
For now, though, it’s first things first: Getting the exchange up and running will allow it to more quickly benefit patients and control costs. From there, it can help accomplish the state’s ultimate goal of connecting exchanges and providers across Tennessee.