CARIBOU, Maine — An Aroostook County health care agency will turn to a sizeable grant to help its providers assure that all of the patients it treats have a current, accurate and complete medical record no matter what office they visit.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins announced recently that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would distribute more than $10.2 million in federal Community Health Center funding to 18 community health centers in Maine. The funding is being distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In Caribou, Pines Health Services will receive $649,105.
Jim Davis, chief executive of Pines Health Services, said the money would be used to acquire an integrated practice management system and electronic medical record system.
Pines Health Services is a nonprofit physician practice management organization. Offices are located in Caribou, Presque Isle, Van Buren and Limestone, and providers are members of Caribou-based Cary Medical Center’s active medical staff.
Davis noted earlier this week that the five primary care offices that serve northern and central Aroostook County are spread throughout a significant area. With patients traveling to multiple offices, Davis said, the new equipment will allow Pines to continue providing high-quality, efficient care that will enable both provider and patient to have a complete, up-to-date medical record accessible for every visit.
“This will allow our 35 providers and five primary care offices to be more interconnected,” he said. “We have a paper record system now. Our providers work at multiple offices, and this new system will allow us to provide greater continuity of care and more rapid assessment of labs and diagnostic imaging.”
He added that the system also will provide seamless appointment scheduling for patients and make reporting and record keeping easier.
Bill Flagg, director of community relations and development for Cary Medical Center, agreed.
“This is really going to enhance the delivery of services from several perspectives,” Flagg said.
Advanced technology has been embraced by the Caribou hospital, which in 2006 was listed in the top 2 percent of hospitals in the nation for health information and patient safety technology, according to the Health Information and Management Systems Society.
Cary already has automated medication dispensing in place, a system which stores, dispenses and tracks medication use. Medication bar coding is used to reduce medication errors, as it ensures that patients receive the correct prescription and dosage. The hospital also employs computerized physician order entry and electronic nursing documentation, according to its Web site.
“This funding will help make certain that community health centers can continue to play a vital role in our health care delivery system,” Snowe and Collins said in a joint statement.
In addition to Pines, Fish River Rural Health in Eagle Lake was granted $365,955 in federal funding, and Katahdin Valley Health Center in Patten received $499,515.
Flagg said he was looking forward to the changes.
“This additional step is going to be great for Pines,” Flagg said. “Both our providers and our patients will be happy with it.”