Caribou hospital joins statewide electronic records network

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 6:04 p.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — Cary Medical Center has joined a statewide network allowing patient records to be shared electronically with other heath care providers in Maine.

As a member of HealthInfoNet, a private Maine-based nonprofit group, Cary offers its patients a secure electronic record that is instantly available to other member health care facilities. The network combines health information from separate health care providers in the state to create a single health record.

“Sharing records is nothing new, but it was manual,” said Kris Doody, Cary Medical Center chief executive officer, at a Sept. 14 press conference announcing the partnership, for which Cary will pay $50,000 annually. She explained how the new computer-based system makes transfer of records more accurate and thorough than faxing or hand-carrying them when a patient is treated at more than one facility.

Doody said the new technology will help make Cary “one of the most digitally advanced rural hospitals in the nation.” The system will help the hospital share information such as drug allergies, prescriptions, medical conditions and lab test results with other health care providers across the state.

David Silsbee, chief information officer at Cary, said if a patient were admitted to Cary’s emergency room and transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center the records would be waiting in Bangor when the patient arrived.

Devore “Dev” Culver, executive director and chief executive officer of HealthInfoNet, added that information appears on the system within two minutes of its creation.

“Patients may opt out of the system, but most see it as a real benefit,” Silsbee said. ”Reception from patients has been positive.” He stressed that redundancy of service is reduced because complete patient records eliminate the need to repeat procedures and tests that already have been performed.

Culver said 60 percent of Cary patients were already in the database, having been treated by member providers elsewhere in the state. “That means six out of 10 times you don’t have to call for a record.”

He stressed the security of the system, explaining that as a private network HealthInfoNet is safe from the risk of Internet-based hacking and that authorized users must be approved for a role on the network to receive a password.

“Maine is leading the nation in health information exchange,” said Culver, noting a national trend toward connectivity among health care providers. He said 20 of Maine’s 39 hospitals have joined the network and 12 others are under contract.

HealthInfonet hopes to connect all health care providers in Maine with its system by 2015. Founded in 2006, the network contains records for more than 900,000 Maine residents. The system is designed to reduce medical mistakes, improve care coordination, provide better patient outcomes, and lower overall health care costs.

Subscriber fees provide one-third of the revenue required to operate HealthInfoNet, with the remaining two-thirds coming from foundation and government sources. Culver praised the the Maine Health Access Foundation for providing $3 million to support the network.

For information, visit www.hinfonet.org.

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