Monday, September 19, 2005

NY TIMES LOOKS AT TACONIC HIN

New York Times Looks at Physician-Run IT NetworkSeptember 19, 2005
The New York Times on Monday examined the Taconic Health Information Network and Community, which includes 500 upstate New York physicians with solo and small group practices who "are pooling their resources and knowledge" to lower the cost of running a health information technology network. Up-front costs of launching such a system can be as much as $30,000 per physician, the Times reports. According to Thomas Handler, research director at the Gartner market research group, fewer than 5% of physicians nationwide are using EHRs or other IT systems. Physicians participating in the Taconic Health Information Network and Community pay a monthly subscription fee of $500 to $600 for access to a secure Web site to view imaging results from four local hospitals and two lab companies. Participating providers generally have at least one standard personal computer with high-speed Internet connection, a router computer for security protection and anti-virus software. Later this year, the system will be expanded to enable physicians to electronically send prescriptions to local or online pharmacies, and physicians next year will have access to patients' electronic medical records. According to the Times, the network is "being watched as a potential model by federal and state government." It was launched with a $100,000 seed grant from the not-for-profit eHealth Initiative, which in turn has received $1.5 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to fund an independent evaluation of the network. The network provides training for participating physicians and their staff and maintains a paid staff of 15 technical support employees, the Times reports. In addition, the group is negotiating software and hardware discounts, and participating physicians can use payments from insurers and employers to help offset the monthly subscription fee. For example, insurer MVP Health Care will pay $18 per patient annually for physicians who use the Taconic network and meet other patient satisfaction standards. Comments National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. David Brailer said, "My mantra is to ask, 'How can we make electronic medical records cheaper and more valuable to the doctor?'" He added, "These are grassroots efforts that are filling a hole that the federal and state governments cannot respond to." John Blair, CEO of Taconic and a laparoscopic surgeon, said, "Many health plans are prepared to pay for performance," adding, "The rub is that you have to have the technology in place to garner those incentives. You need to automate the reporting capability" (Freudenheim, New York Times, 9/19).

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