Hawaii looks to Mesa County for health technology remedy

Dr. Richard Lee-Ching, left, of Hilo, Hawaii, visits with Dr. Tarek Arja on Monday at Grand Junction Family Medicine. Arja explained how his office changed from paper to electronic records in 2008.

The locations may be thousands of miles apart, but health care concerns transcend distance: quality of care, care coordination, technology implementation, cost control, physician and patient buy-in and the overarching desire to help people be healthy.

On Monday, Dr. Richard Lee-Ching, a family practitioner in Hilo, Hawaii, visited Grand Valley physicians and medical practices to learn more about the Mesa County Model and the Colorado Beacon Consortium.

Hilo, on Hawaii’s Big Island, is part of the Big Island Beacon Community Consortium, one of 15 community consortia that in May 2010 were awarded $220 million in Recovery Act grants to serve as pilot communities for eventual wide-scale use of health information technology, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re very aware of the Grand Junction model, and we’re trying to do something similar on the Big Island,” Lee-Ching said. “Eventually, we’ll want to expand to the entire state.”

Particular concerns are maintaining quality of care while implementing the technology, coordinating a patient’s care among providers, and encouraging physicians to buy into proposed new systems of technology integration and work together in patient care.

“They all want to be leaders,” Lee-Ching said, laughing. “So, we wanted to see how (the Mesa County Model) incentivized people here to do the right thing, and see how patients like it.”

These technological changes might include a physician’s practice changing from paper to electronic records, the establishment of electronic portals where patients can access health information, and creating electronic networks among health care providers so that patients receive continuity of care among providers.

Lee-Ching visited Grand Junction Family Medicine, P.C., where Dr. Tarek Arja explained the details of his paperless practice and his relationship with Colorado Beacon Consortium.

“We went live (on an electronic medical records system) in January 2008,” Arja told Lee- Ching. “We converted our charts over, and it’s made certain aspects of the practice easier. Prescriptions are a lot easier. And I take my laptop wherever I go, so you’re always in touch.”

Arja said he and his staff are working with the Colorado Beacon Consortium to create patient registries, which include a person’s medical history, health concerns and treatment plan.

Previously, Arja said, a system was based around prescriptions, so if a person didn’t call to fill or refill a prescription, then he or she could easily fall through the cracks. With electronic medical records, he told Lee-Ching, it’s easier for health care providers to know when a patient is due for tests, a checkup or refills, as well as know about care they’ve received from other providers.

The Colorado Beacon Consortium’s main goal, said Cathie Nicholson, a quality improvement adviser, is meaningful use of health information technology. That includes improving public health, engaging patients and families in their own health, improving care coordination, ensuring privacy and security, and improving quality, safety and efficiency while reducing disparity.


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