Gov. Phil Bredesen signed Executive Order 35 establishing the Governor’s eHealth Advisory Council to coordinate eHealth initiatives across the state on Thursday. The Council’s goal would be to ensure the successful development and implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs) in Tennessee.
“It is vital that we continue to improve the quality of health care for all Tennesseans, and it’s my hope that this advisory council will help us do that,” said Gov. Bredesen. “By bringing together stakeholders in the health care industry who will focus on the use of technology as a tool to transform the way we provide care, we will put our state in a position to spark fundamental changes in the health outcomes of Tennesseans.”
Executive Order 35 calls for the Council to create a plan to promote the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) by health care stakeholders across Tennessee and to identify obstacles to the implementation of effective health information infrastructure. The Council will be called upon to advise state government on how to more effectively promote the successful adoption of EMRs.
At $6.8 million, Tennessee ranks 4th in the receipt of federal funds* from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to develop EMRs and related health informatics technology over the next five years. Most notably, Tennessee is one of only five states** to be awarded a 5-year grant of approximately $5 million.
The Council will be chaired by Antoine Agassi, as designee of Commissioner of Finance and Administration Dave Goetz. As the former chief technology officer for Spheris and the former chief information officer for WebMD, Mr. Agassi has more than 20 years of successful industry experience in health information transactions to bring to this initiative.
“The new frontier for improving health care quality is the development of information systems that make sense for the industry players that have to use them, while also protecting patient data," said Mr. Agassi. "By creating a collaborative zone for the major stakeholders we can be certain that the solutions developed are functional in our health care ecosystem for a doctor, a lab, a hospital, a third party administrator or a patient."
The Council will have 16 members representing Tennessee’s provider community, employers, regional health care information organizations, payers and consumer groups. The governor will appoint those seats in coming weeks.
Several projects to develop related health informatics technology are underway, and one of the governor’s goals for this Council is that it will offer constructive paths to minimize and eliminate duplicative efforts while leveraging innovation.
Ongoing projects include:
CareSpark: Tri-cities Area
CareSpark originated from work done by a coalition of physicians, hospitals, employers, health plans and community leaders over the past three years. The state has committed $1 million to support this regional initiative -- an effort that is also attracting national attention. CareSpark is participating in the Central Appalachian region's prototype (encompassing northeastern TN, southwest VA, southeastern KY and WV) for a National Health Information Network. This prototype is funded through a $5.6 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administered by Accenture. Their goal is to develop an interoperable standards-based network for the secure exchange of health care information.
MidSouth eHealth Alliance: Memphis
In place since 2004, the MidSouth eHealth Alliance in Memphis serves as the nexus for a broad, subscriber-based data-sharing organization working toward a model for electronic medical records that could be applied nationally. They are partnered with Vanderbilt University, a leader in the health information technology field. The state has committed just under $9 million over five years to this effort and is also leveraging an additional $5 million from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Tennessee is one of only five states to receive this AHRQ grant.
Shared Health: TennCare
TennCare, Tennessee’s expanded Medicaid program providing health insurance coverage to 1.2 million Tennesseans, has also implemented an electronic medical record initiative in partnership with Shared Health, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.
Eastern Tennessee Health Information Network: Knoxville
An electronic medical record project in Knoxville is in the early developmental stages. The Physicians' Foundation for Health Systems Excellence, a Boston-based nonprofit, has invested $26 million nationwide to launch a program allowing hospitals, physicians, labs, pharmacies and other health care organizations access to patient records to improve patient care and save money. Working through the Patient Safety Institute, a grant of $985,000 was made to the Eastern Tennessee Health Information Network in Knoxville, a collaboration of Knoxville's four major hospitals: Baptist Health System, Covenant Health, St. Mary's Health System and University Health System.
A copy of the Executive Order is available on Gov. Bredesen’s Web site at: http://www.tennessee.gov/governor/viewExecutiveOrders.do
*State ranking of federal funds received for EMRs and health informatics technology:
1. Massachusetts $13.4 million
2. Indiana $9.3 million
3. Utah $8.0 million
4. Tennessee $6.8 million
5. California $6.2 million
6. Rhode Island $5.0 million
7. Colorado $5.0 million
8. New York $4.5 million
9. Oregon $4.8 million
10. Illinois $4.6 million
** Other states receiving 5-year grants from AHRQ include Colorado, Indiana, Rhode Island and Utah. The five state grants total $25 million over five years.