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Governor’s task force developing health records-sharing strategy

One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina is that healthcare information must be technologically available and transportable. A group of 20 Mississippians appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour is developing a health information technology infrastructure that will ultimately improve the quality and reduce the cost of healthcare in the state. The Mississippi Health Information Infrastructure Task Force began meeting last month.

Task force members are Chris Anderson, Ricki Garrett, Dr. Ken Davis, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Scott Stringer, Teresa Planch, Mary Helen Bowen, Timothy Thomas, Phillip Clendenin, Ann Peden, Dr. Jim McIlwain, Patsy Horton, Warren Jones, Bill Rudman, David Litchliter, Sam Dawkins, Rep. Sid Bondurant, Rep. Steve Holland, Sen. Alan Nunnelee and Sen. Terry Burton.

“Katrina demonstrated the need for timely, more secure and accessible health information, and the Task Force will develop the roadmap that guides Mississippi to adopt a plan that’s superlative to our existing technology infrastructure,” Barbour said. “I look forward to hearing the committee’s recommendations. Providing this technology is vital to the health of all Mississippians.”

The group is charged with developing an overall strategy for the adoption and use of health information technology to provide efficient and consumer-friendly approaches to healthcare delivery. They will also work to develop an interstate exchange of health information.

Getting started

Co-chair Chris Anderson says the process has begun and is a result of a recommendation of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal.

“One of the recommendations of the Health and Human Services Committee was to establish a regional health information organization that would help connect physicians, hospitals and other healthcare organizations and thus better serve all patients,” he said. “I look forward to working with other healthcare providers statewide on this task force.”

Anderson is chief executive officer of the Singing River Hospital System based in Pascagoula. He says hospitals will play a critical role, principally because they tend to be the largest healthcare providers in terms of size, employees and existing information technology infrastructure in their communities.

“Hospitals are the common link for most other providers, interacting with most others on a regular basis,” he said. “Hospitals will have to be at the table and in many cases lead the charge as we work toward a long-term interoperability strategy.

“Hospitals tend to have more resources in the way of information technology that may also be brought to bear in this effort.”

He says it’s critical that representatives from all sectors of healthcare, particularly physicians, be involved in this effort.

Task force member Ricki Garrett says a newspaper photo of a Gulf Coast physician in his driveway trying to dry out paper records after Katrina made a lasting impression with her.

“Katrina taught us we don’t need paper records,” she said. “We need to make sure patients know what medications they are taking and what their chemotherapy regimen is. There were many people displaced who had no idea.”

Garrett, executive director of the Mississippi Nurses Association, is hopeful and optimistic the task force will be able to make recommendations to help.

Anderson agrees. “By connecting healthcare providers and establishing a secure and privately-protected system, we will greatly improve each patient’s care,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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