New York Department of Health, NYeC Seek $129M for EMR Network

The New York State Department of Health and the NYeC are requesting $129 million in government funds to form the nation's largest EMR database.

The New York State Department of Health and the public-private partnership NYeC (New York eHealth Collaborative) have submitted a proposal to the federal ONC (Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) to launch what they say will be the nation's largest electronic medical record network.

Founded in 2006, NYeC works to drum up support for health care IT implementation in New York state through funding and policy.

Of the health care providers in New York, 10 to 20 percent are connected to an HIE (health information exchange), David Whitlinger, NYeC's executive director, told eWEEK. "100 percent adoption is the goal," he said.

The plan would involve $129 million funded from both the state and federal government to build SHIN-NY (the Statewide Health Information Network for NY), an EMR network for New York. The database would allow doctors to share patient records from multiple physicians.

"We look forward to working with NYeC and other state programs to create this network and establish rules that will make electronic medical records secure, accessible and helpful to the many stakeholders all around the state." Rachel Block, New York state's deputy commissioner of health IT transformation, said in a statement.

The network would link 12 regional EMR networks within the state and let New York patients and health care providers access medical histories, lab results, prescription information and diagnoses.

The state and NYeC submitted their EMR proposal to the ONC within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 26.

The EMR network would be rolled out in phases every several months between the middle of 2011 and 2014.

New York health officials expect the new EMR network to exceed the size of that of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other states.

Broader shared access to EMR networks means quicker access to medical information in the doctor's office or in the emergency room. This information could be key to survival, especially when patients have pre-existing conditions, such as allergies to medications, Whitlinger said.

"Having this information can mean the difference between life and death," said Eugene Heslin, a practicing New York physician and board member of NYeC, in a statement.

Heslin describes a situation in which EMR access can be essential to saving a life:

"One night I received a call at 3 a.m. alerting me that an 89-year-old patient was in the emergency room experiencing shortness of breath and disorientation. From my computer at home, in the middle of the night, I was able to pull up his list of medications and discover that they did not match the list he had given paramedics."

By accessing the EMR database, Heslin learned that the patient took his wife's medication by mistake. "Without electronic medical records, I may have made the wrong diagnosis and not been able to treat my patient quickly and effectively, possibly saving his life," Heslin recalled.

A statewide network would also help pharmacists who can't read doctors' handwritten prescriptions, Whitlinger noted. The EMR platform will allow doctors to prescribe medication electronically.

"The plan is very comprehensive, and we're looking forward to working with all the stakeholders and many of the software vendors to make this succeed," Whitlinger said. "We're looking to hire rapidly to meet the challenges of the plan so we can hit the ground running in early January."