Project will provide ERs with medication assistance

FRAMINGHAM (03/16/2004) - Massachusetts emergency room clinicians will soon have access to critical medication information for incapacitated patients, due to an initiative led by the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium (MHDC).

The MHDC is a third-party healthcare technology consultancy focused on administering transactions between payers and providers.

The MHDC will be rolling out INFO-ED, the first phase of its Massachusetts Simplifying Healthcare Among Regional Entities (MA-SHARE) program by June. INFO-ED is a "proof of concept-type" pilot program centered on the emergency departments at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass.

MA-SHARE is led by a group of MHDC-affiliated hospitals, health plans, and vendors focused on using IT to address issues on healthcare quality, administrative efficiency, and integration, according to the MHDC's Web site.

"We are driving this (program) to open up new ways of getting clinicians vital patient prescription information," said Joe Miller, MHDC program manager.

Through the guidance of MHDC president Elliott Stone and a committee made up of 20 healthcare professionals, Miller is optimistic MA-SHARE will have a positive impact on ERs throughout Massachusetts.

INFO-ED's mission is to provide a system that will give ER clinicians real-time medication histories of incoming patients. A secure master patient index that identifies Massachusetts residents is a primary component of the initiative. "The index will be vendor-created and have specific security processes," Miller said.

Another component will be technical and data standards, such as coding and privacy information, as well as establishing relationships between pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and electronic prescription application vendors.

"PBMs pay prescription claims for patients and are a standard pipeline for facilitating communication between physicians, patients, and providers," Miller said. "We are currently evaluating e-prescribing vendors that have access to PBMs."

When the pilot begins, Miller said he would like to see patient information such as date of birth, gender, ZIP code, and insurance data entered into a Web-based application (master patient index) and have prescription information made available from the e-prescribing vendor, PBM, or an insurer.

"This type of data will assist physicians with workflow and help them make better diagnosis and treatment decisions," Miller said. "Too often, a physician is forced to rely on a patient that may be comatose or delirious, and that can compromise the quality of care they receive."

Once the project is fully under way, Miller said future endeavors may include offering lab and allergy lists and past patient diagnosis history.

Project seed funding came from a US$500,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, as well as contributions from health plans such as Tufts and Partners and a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Seed funding will be spent on hiring project managers and vendors, and internal overhead expenses.

With so many organizations involved in MA-SHARE, Miller said the biggest obstacle is getting consensus and agreeing on standards and privacy policies, as well as continued funding.

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