Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 19, 2012

Network Health Speeds Medical Info Exchange with E-Discharge Program



Sharing patient discharge and care information electronically among healthcare providers tasked with caring for the patient seems obvious in our connected world. If what we eat for lunch is often broadcast in real time on Facebook—with photos, no less—it is a tragic quirk that vital medical records commonly are hand-copied and physically handed to other members of the care team.

At least in Massachusetts, however, this is beginning to change.

Ahead of the State’s plans to beef up medical record exchange, a partnership among nonprofit health plan provider Network Health, the New England Health Exchange Network (NEHEN) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is showing the way forward with its pilot e-discharge program.


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The program is a simple but game-changing. Instead of exchanging medical and discharge data via paper records, Network Health now automatically receives electronic medical reports from BIDMC as soon as one of the health plan’s members leaves the emergency department or outpatient setting.

The reports include both administrative and real-time clinical data, including discharge instructions and lab results.

“The doctor benefits because all the aftercare information (follow up visits, medications, tests, etc) is encapsulated in a concise electronic format and delivered to everyone on the care team, saving the doctor time for more important tasks,” said Peter Bristol, vice-president and chief technology officer for Network Health.

The patient also benefits because everyone on their virtual care team has the same information about what the patient needs to improve health and overcome setbacks, according to Bristol.

“By sharing key clinical information with all members of the care team, instantaneously and securely, the care team can take action to ensure a stable recovery and prevent an emergency department visit from occurring (because of poor wound care or infection after a surgery, for example), or even prevent a worse outcome: readmission to the hospital,” he added.

For its pioneering work, this month Network Health was awarded the Leadership in Technology Award by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) Board of Directors at the board’s annual member meeting in Reston, Virginia.

“Network Health has constantly advanced the state-of-the-art in interoperability and analytics,” said chief information officer for partner BIDMC in a statement. “Their impatience with the status quo is invigorating.”

Network Health has received more than 3,000 real-time notifications since first participating in the e-dischrage program in 2011, according to Network Health president, Christina Severin. This has helped Network Health operate with improved efficiency and reduced costs by following up with patients in a timely manner, she said.

“Health plans need to re-invent themselves,” added Bristol. “ We’re positioning ourselves as the best health plan partner to reform-oriented care delivery organizations who really are dedicated to the best interests of their members (their patients), and who are ready to let go of the old ways of information silos and volume-based payments.”




Edited by Brooke Neuman




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