The Third Annual E-Health Consumer Summit was a room-bursting success. Titled, “Are We There Yet? The Mass eHealth Collaborative Experience: Lessons Learned, Opportunities and Challenges for the Future,” the agenda balanced presentations – one weighing the policies and procedures of the MAeHC three-community pilots against national consumer principles, and the other offering an overview of the projects and how they fit into the larger context – and audience-panel questions and answers.
The panel, which included the executive staff of the MAeHC and others – clinicians, IT staff, and a Brockton MAeHC Community Consumer Council member – represented all three communities: Brockton, Newburyport, and North Adams.
The panelists were asked some difficult questions such as what unique challenges each community faced when switching to e-health records (EHRs), how to ensure quality reports, how to handle the reporting of mental health conditions in EHRs and what the challenges are when working with multiple vendors.
All of the speakers acknowledged that the process of moving from paper-based records to EHRs, and from there to interconnected records, was neither easy nor perfect, but the consensus was that things were moving in the right direction. Richard Mindess, a physician in Newburyport, had described the process as building a house. He said that “we have dug the hole and have our foundation, but we still do not have a house.” The panelists also recognized that there is no one model that fits every community.
Yet the overall message of the panel discussion remained positive. All panelists believed that the exchanging of health information electronically is the future. Mindess, in spite of the challenges he acknowledged with “going live” with the health information exchange, went so far as to say that the new system and the pilot programs have “the potential to redefine what is good, quality care.”
The $50 million funding from Blue Cross/Blue Shield for the MAeHC pilot projects will be spent by the end of 2008. Much of the future of the MAeHC rests on what happens with e-health funding (S. 2660, Cost Containment Bill) in the legislature. We are all watching this bill closely and keeping our fingers crossed . . .
Lisa Fenichel and Sarah Donohue-Rolfe