State & NO-area docs linking patient records


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans hospital and 11 clinics are hooked up to share electronic health records so doctors can see what treatments a patient has had and whether a new prescription would interact well or badly with medicines already being taken.

The Greater New Orleans Health Information Exchange includes 160 doctors at the LSU Interim Hospital and clinics including the Common Ground Health Clinic, the NO/AIDS Task Force and the Tulane Ruth Fertel Community Health Center. Together, they care for more than 250,000 patients.

A suburban hospital is near agreement, said Anjum Khurshid, project director of the Crescent City Beacon Community, a Louisiana Public Health Institute project formed to use health information technology to make health care more accountable and efficient.

State Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, City Health Commissioner Karen DeSalvo, community partners, patients, and local public health leaders planned to demonstrate the network Wednesday afternoon.

Such exchanges are being designed around the country because different hospitals and doctors use different software for their records, making it difficult to exchange information securely and quickly.

Whatever program they're using, the information is automatically added to the exchange for patients who have authorized it, Khurshid said.

Supporters say the exchanges will reduce duplicate forms and tests, hospital readmissions and waits for specialist referrals. Patients' primary care physicians are automatically notified when a specialist or other doctor in the exchange treats them, Khurshid said.

The Greater New Orleans exchange is talking with other hospitals and a planned connection with the Louisiana Health Information Exchange, is close, he said. "We expect it to be by the end of this year."

The state exchange has signed up more than 100 hospitals, clinics and medical groups but only four are currently able to exchange information, according to a list on its website. Those are Lafayette General Medical Center, Lafayette General Surgical Center, Madison Parish Hospital in Tallulah and Morehouse General Hospital in Bastrop.

Those signed up include Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Christus Schumpert hospitals around the state, and Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.

Khurshid said it is not clear whether Ochsner Health Systems, which is based in suburban New Orleans but has a number of its eight hospitals and 35 clinics outside the metro area, would be in the state or the New Orleans exchange.

Federal recovery money has paid for the exchanges so far. Khurshid said he doesn't know when LaHIE's federal grants expire, but knows that LaHIE plans to collect fees from its members. GNOHIE is still working on what will happen when its federal money runs out in the middle of 2013, he said.