(Host) State health experts have been grappling for years with how to improve and streamline health care.
They say one of the best ways to do both is for doctors to switch from paper files and to electronic medical records.
Health professionals from all over the state will be in Burlington today to learn about the various technologies on the market and find out what help is available to make use of it.
VPR’s Nina Keck has more.
(Keck) Steve La Rose is a spokesman for VITL.
That stands for Vermont Information Technology Leaders.
It’s an independent, nonprofit organization that’s hosting the conference.
(Larose) "What happens right now is most physician offices use paper records. And the problem with that is it’s not easy to share the data that is collected in those medical records with the hospital, with other physician practices."
(Keck) LaRose says medical records stored electronically can be easily and securely shared between primary care physicians, specialists and hospitals.
(Larose) "What that would do is allow for fewer duplicate tests because physicians would be able to see what tests were already done. They would also have better information about the patients because they would see what other treatments have been used by other physicians. They would have a better patient history. So that allows them to make a better medical decision and provide better quality care."
(Keck) Because many companies produce EMRs – or electronic medical records – national standards now mandate that the different programs must be able to communicate with each other.
Patients can also make use of some of these technologies.
Sandy Bechtel is president of MBA Resources, a Burlington firm that provides EMR programs and practice services to physicians in and out of Vermont.
(Bechtel) "The other part of it for patients is that we offer a – it’s like a personal health record where you can get on from home on your computer, update your demographics, your insurance agent, request an appointment, have an online consult. You can do a lot right there so that when you get in the office, they’re ready to see you."
(Keck) Despite the benefits, the high cost and time commitment needed for training are big obstacles for many doctors.
An EMR system can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 – plus annual licensing fees.
Steve LaRose says that’s probably why only 13 percent of practices in Vermont fully utilize such systems.
Their goal, he says, is to have half of all practices in the state using the technology within the next five years.
VITL is currently trying to raise $1 million to help primary care physicians in the state pay for the technology.
So far, LaRose says, they’ve raised half that – mostly from insurance companies and hospitals.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.