Leading healthcare authorities to address safety and effectiveness

DANVILLE, PA ľNovember 8, 2006 -- Geisinger Health System is convening leading national authorities to help address potential risks and challenges associated with the widespread implementation of electronic health records (EHR).

"Electronic health records have the capacity to bring enormous benefits to patients and providers but, like other clinical innovations, they carry risks that must be identified and managed," said James Walker, M.D., chief medical information officer at Geisinger. "We are bringing together a group of recognized leaders to form a national advisory panel to identify the scope of EHR safety, define research needs and benchmarks, and establish what individual healthcare institutions can do to make electronic health records as safe and effective as possible."

Walker said, "Widespread use of EHR systems in care delivery is a new proposition for most caregivers. A national body addressing EHR safety and effectiveness would play a pivotal role in recommending standards, policies, and shared functions, such as creation of the first national database that will allow organizations to benchmark quality and learn from others' experience."

According to Ron Paulus, M.D., chief technology and innovation officer at Geisinger, individuals who have already agreed to participate represent a cross-section of nationally recognized stakeholders who are "renowned in their respective fields and who bring immense common sense to what they do."

"Although numerous industry stakeholders have called for widespread, near-term adoption of EHRs in essentially all clinical practices, a large adoption gap exists between the theorists and those clinicians seeing patients every day. This initiative would address the critical safety and effectiveness barriers to widespread EHR adoption," said Paulus.

Those individuals who have agreed to participate include:

  • Pascale Carayon, PhD, Procter & Gamble Bascom Professor in Total Quality at the University of Wisconsin and a leading expert in human factors and systems engineering in healthcare and patient safety;
  • Homer Chin, MD, medical director of Kaiser Northwest Health Plan, an organization at the forefront of EHR implementation for many years;
  • Carol Diamond, MD, managing director of the health programs at the Markle Foundation - widely recognized as one of the nation's most innovative philanthropic organizations focused on improving the ability of patients, consumers and clinicians to use information technology to improve healthcare;
  • Nancy Leveson, PhD, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, a leading expert on software engineering and safety of software-controlled systems;
  • Clement J. McDonald, MD, director and research scientist, The Regenstrief Institute and distinguished professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine; and
  • John Tooker, MD, chief executive officer of the American College of Physicians.

Using EHRs as a core means for improving the safety and effectiveness of care has been a hot topic in recent years across government, policy, industry and clinical stakeholders. Given the tens of billions of dollars necessary to install such systems in physician practices nationwide, greater attention is being paid to issues such as EHR safety, reliability and testing, monitoring and implementation strategies.

Geisinger Health System, under whose auspices the panel is being assembled, has successfully deployed an integrated EHR that provides access to critical information about a patient's health to doctors and other healthcare providers through HIPAA-compliant Internet portals. Geisinger also offers patients direct, confidential access to their EHR, electronic messaging with their doctor's practice and online scheduling. The Geisinger is actively engaged in research studying the quality and efficiency of EHR-enhanced care processes.

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Founded in 1915, Geisinger Health System has evolved into one of the nation's leading fully integrated healthcare providers, serving more than 2.6 million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania. A physician-led organization, Geisinger includes three major regional medical centers and a 650-member group practice, and one of the largest rural not-for-profit HMOs. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org.


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