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Massachusetts Program Announces Participating Hospital in Data Exchange Program

The Patrick-Murray Administration recently announced that 15 healthcare organizations in Worcester County will participate in a new pilot program that will support the seamless electronic transfer of clinical information for patients transitioning between hospitals, nursing homes, and home care. As part of the Improving Massachusetts Post-Acute Care Transfers (IMPACT) project, these central Massachusetts providers will pilot a new electronic version of the state’s Universal Transfer Form, which provides key health data to coordinate care for patients making the transition from one clinical setting to another.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts received $1.7 million in federal stimulus funding to develop the IMPACT project. The Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI), a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is leading the state’s HIT efforts.

“Massachusetts has made it a priority to advance health information technologies to improve the quality and safety of healthcare for residents in the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “As a national leader in healthcare reform, we are moving forward with launching this pilot initiative in Worcester County that will lead to lower costs and better care for residents across the state.”

“Health information exchanges and other innovative technologies contribute to higher quality care for patients,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby, MD. “Providing more efficient and coordinated care through the integration of services is an important outcome of the state’s health information technology plan.”

“Massachusetts led the nation on health reform, and this investment will help us lead again when it comes to modernizing medical records through key health information exchanges,” said Senator John Kerry. “Better technology and more efficient record keeping means fewer medical errors and better access to quality care.”

The healthcare organizations participating in IMPACT include Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center, Westborough; Christopher House of Worcester; Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital, Worcester; Family Health Center of Worcester; Holy Trinity Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Worcester; Jewish Healthcare Center, Worcester; Life Care Center of Auburn; Millbury Healthcare Center; Notre Dame Long Term Care Center, Worcester; Overlook Visiting Nurses Association; Radius Healthcare Center Worcester; Reliant Medical Group (formerly known as Fallon Clinic), Worcester; Saint Vincent Hospital, Worcester; UMass Memorial Health Care, Worcester; and VNA Care Network and Hospice, Worcester.

These healthcare organizations will pilot and validate a paper Universal Transfer Form over the next four months, with the electronic version of the form to come next year. Developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Universal Transfer Form is critical to ensure that patients receive safer, more efficient, and higher quality healthcare when making the transition between acute care and post-acute care settings.

The Universal Transfer Form contains key patient health data, including medication lists, advance directives, and treatment plans, that enable a seamless transition for a patient moving from one healthcare setting to another. The IMPACT pilot initiative will create a system for information exchange between healthcare providers that allows organizations with EHR systems and those without EHRs to efficiently and securely share information about their patients electronically.

Tools to view, update, and send the electronic Universal Transfer Form will be added to the state’s forthcoming health information exchange network. Tools will also be developed to translate the form into a language and format that’s easier for patients to understand. The IMPACT project is working with national data standards efforts to ensure that these tools can be disseminated seamlessly throughout Massachusetts and the rest of the country.

“This advancement in health information technology is critical to support better coordination among providers, and will greatly benefit patients who are making transitions between healthcare facilities and home care,” said Rick Shoup, PhD, state HIT coordinator and director of the MeHI.

Larry Garber, MD, medical director for informatics at Reliant Medical Group (formerly known as Fallon Clinic) and principal investigator for IMPACT, said, “The beauty of this system is that it leverages information already collected electronically in EHRs and patient assessment tools in order to minimize rework or having patients tell their medical history over and over again. It also guarantees timely delivery of all of the necessary information to the next provider of care. It’s good for our patients, and it’s good for physicians and their staff.”

"The enhanced communication among service providers included in the IMPACT project will ultimately benefit the patient, control expenses, and establish standards that will become the hallmark for healthcare in the future,” said Paul O’Connell, administrator for the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Westborough.

In June 2011, 31 healthcare organizations participating in Worcester’s State Action on Avoidable Rehospitalizations Initiatives and other efforts to improve the transition of care, attended a “Worcester Galaxy” meeting. This meeting established a learning collaborative that will help improve and implement IMPACT’s tools throughout Worcester County following the pilot sites. Similar Galaxies and learning collaboratives will convene in communities throughout the state over the next few years in order to engage healthcare providers across the continuum of care, and allow for the development of best practices regarding documentation, communication, patient education, and other processes to ensure safe and successful transitions for all patients.

Source: Health and Human Services