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Camden Hospitals to Create Health-Records Exchange

Camden Hospitals to Create Health-Records Exchange

Josh Goldstein | The Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

September 22, 2009

In a model that could be copied by other cities, the three major health systems serving Camden are joining with local doctors to share health records of patients who give their permission, enabling doctors to give more timely and informed care.

Cooper University Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, and Virtua Health – normally fierce competitors – plan to join with most primary-care providers in the city of 70,000 to create an exchange giving doctors access to such records as hospital discharge summaries, lab results, medications, and X-rays.

The system, called the Camden Health Information Exchange, is the furthest along of five similar projects in New Jersey, and is expected to be formally announced at a news conference this morning. It could be operating by this winter.

In Camden and elsewhere, the exchange would solve a well-known problem: Doctors often see very sick patients for the first time and have no idea what past treatment they have received.

“With a crowded waiting room and busy staff, it can take a week to collect all of their records from local hospitals,” said Jeffrey Brenner, the doctor who has spearheaded the initiative through the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers. “This is not acceptable in 2009.”

The exchange will cost $210,000 in the first year, and an additional $85,000 for each of the next two years, Brenner said. Coalition projects are funded by hospitals, foundations, and the government.

No similar program exists in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where doctors also struggle with balkanized records. A similar exchange is being spearheaded by the Geisinger Health System in the state’s central and northeast regions.

Pennsylvania officials are in the early stages of creating a statewide exchange. The Rendell administration expects to begin its software development by spring or next summer, said Philip Magistro, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform.

Delaware has a working statewide exchange that includes the state’s nine hospitals.

In Camden, emergency-room doctors are “very excited about being given a tool that is really long overdue,” said Anthony Mazzarelli, medical director of the emergency department at Cooper University Hospital.

“In order to provide the best possible care, every physician at every health system wants as much information as possible,” Mazzarelli said. “If you are taking care of a patient who has a complicated health situation and you can’t get that data, you are flying blind.”

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