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Geisinger Builds Digital Healthcare Network

Posted by iMark - 2006-04-06

Geisinger Health System will build a Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) with two community hospitals that could eventually provide thousands of doctors at dozens of hospitals access to patient health records electronically, the Pennsylvania company said Tuesday.
The platform built on Vignette Corp. software tools, along with a record locator service and master patient index, will give physicians throughout the region access to critical patient information outside Geisinger Health System's immediate network. The system will provide better coordination of care. Geisinger offers health plans cover more than 240,000 lives, supported by 10,000 employees of which 650 are doctors.

The project will include a record locator to create a master-patient index. Information stored in databases will include laboratory results, pathology reports and discharge summaries. All accessed online. "If I know you had a CAT Scan at the local community hospital within the last week and came in for a headache, I probably won't repeat that," said Frank Richards, chief information officer at Geisinger. "Today, I have no way to know that unless you tell me."

Richards said exchanging data in the healthcare industry proves complex because there are few standards, including ways to display medication lists, for example. If they do exist, he said, most are in paper form.

The project consists of three parts: master-patient index, record locator and portal viewer. "If I'm a doctor in an emergency room, I can log onto the system and see if either of the other two hospitals in the area knows anything about the patient," Richards said. "If they do, I can enter their system to check the lab reports."

The plan to fully automate the system will take three years, but Richards said the project is ahead of a key government mandate to get health records online within 10 years. The master-patient index will go live by July. The record locator comes next. It could take from six months to one year, he said. Integration with the portal will come next.

Geisinger has had an automated electronic medical record for ambulatory services since 2002, with out-patient physician order entry. In-patient order entry for hospitals is on the way. "Local healthcare providers are interested in expanding this to more than the original three hospitals," Richards said. "We, like everyone else, would like to see this expand to a system made available across the country."

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