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HIT Coalition Hosts Briefing with Local D.C Clinics to Discuss Real Impact of HIT

June 16, 2010

The Health IT Now! Coalition hosted a briefing this afternoon on Capitol Hill discussing the benefits and difficulties of Health IT implementation. To talk about their experiences with the adoption of Health IT were healthcare providers D.C. Primary Care Association, the Whitman-Walker Clinic, and Bread for the City.

Sharon Baskerville, Chief Executive Officer of DCPCA, described her experience with Health IT as a “David and Goliath” story. She believed that technology seemed the solution to her problems. Once she received the six million dollars from the District of Columbia, she had three years to figure out the health information exchange system. But she was just part of a little primary care association – how would they figure out a way to link and talk with big hospitals and care centers, how do you share data? By engaging the hospital community, DCPCA was able to sign a hospital agreement with eight other hospitals. Now they are linked to two other hospitals and six community health centers. They have over 400,000 individual lives in their system and plan to connect with five more hospitals by the end of December.

Naseema Shafi, Chief Operating Officer of Whitman-Walker Clinic, ran through a typical day in her clinic with Health IT. “The patient walks in and checks in on the computer screen. We only have one address for each patient, so we confirm if this is correct, as well as his insurance. Then the screen changes color to notify the nurse that he is in the waiting room. With this system, the doctors can look at records from a year ago, which is especially critical with HIV/AIDS patients. The doctors can also see what existing medication they are on. The color then changes when the patient checks out and we reschedule them for a follow up.” For Shafi, the biggest challenge was that they were the first to go live that DCPCA helped. “New systems are always challenging, and most people don’t come from high-tech backgrounds,” she explained. The benefits are that they are able to see all the information that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. “We want to see where people are going. We want to see the records from all our different service sections, whether that is oral, primary care, HIV/AIDS, addictions, pharmacy… there is a lot going on. And we used to have a paper chart for each service.”

Jeannine Sanford, Deputy Director of Bread for the City, explained the advantage she had when adopting Health IT, “It was better for us small to midsize primary care facilities that got to hold hands and jump into the water together.” She continued, “We benefited from DCPCA’s help. And we benefited from the ability to do it as a group and learn from each other.” Sanford’s biggest challenge is that the software they purchased wasn’t necessarily geared towards behavioral healthcare. “But the no paper thing is making everything so easy,” she added, “we got rid of two cabinets and added a desk! It’s the little things that add up.”

Sharon Baskerville noted that the only thing they can do is learn the system by training over and over, and easing the customers through the experience. “It’s not about technology. It’s really about policy issues, sustainability, business models, political will, and community engagement.”

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