For John Perry, MD, HealthlinkNY Completes the Patient Picture
At 9 a.m. one day, a patient was admitted to a hospital emergency room. By 9 p.m., the patient’s primary care physician already had the hospital report.
“Typically, it takes days or even weeks to get an ER or hospital report, or you don’t get it at all unless you ask for it,” explains John Perry, MD, a family physician and partner at Endwell Family Physicians, LLP in Endwell, New York. He says that thanks to HealthlinkNY, the report was delivered to him and imported directly into his patient’s electronic health record (EHR).
“If I needed to provide follow-up care, I would know exactly what was done for my patient, what medications he was taking, and what he was told,” he says.
Connecting to HealthlinkNY: The Next Logical Step
Endwell Family Physicians was an early adopter of EHRs. “I haven’t walked into an exam room with a paper chart for 14 years,” Dr. Perry chuckles. In 2011, the practice took the next logical step and connected to the HealthlinkNY Health Information Exchange (HIE) so it could look up patient information—with the patient’s consent— wherever the patient seeks care, as long as those providers are connected to the HIE and contributing data, too.
Dr. Perry says that when health information systems can “talk” to each other, the quality of care goes up and the cost of care goes down. “If you have all [patient] data available to you, you can make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan in a more timely manner, and you decrease the cost to the system,” he notes.
Case in point: Treatment for congestive heart failure varies according to its cause.
Dr. Perry explains that one can diagnose heart failure, “but you need to figure out what’s causing it, because that will greatly impact how you treat it.” Diagnostic test results, including an echocardiogram (or ultrasound of the heart), help determine the treatment plan.
“If the patient had an echocardiogram recently, and the results are in the HIE, you will know if the patient has a weak heart and you have to help the patient reduce the stress on it,” he adds. Otherwise, the patient may have to go to a hospital, clinic, or cardiologist’s office to be tested again, which would delay treatment, add cost, and burden the patient with the inconvenience of repeating the test.
Collecting Consent as Patients Wait
As Endwell Family Physicians cannot access patient records in the HIE without the patient’s consent, the practice makes a concerted effort to collect signed consent forms from patients. A staff member is assigned to walk up to patients in the waiting room to explain the consent process. This way, when patients are handed the HealthlinkNY consent form and information sheet, patients know what they are signing and the many ways consent will benefit them.
This personal approach has enabled Endwell Family Physicians to collect more than 50,000 consents from patients. Now, before patients come in for their appointments, staff members can review current patient medical records, lab records, visits to specialists, medications, and immunizations. All patients have to do is review a print out—no more filling out forms from scratch.
Dr. Perry says HealthlinkNY also helps improve the quality of patient care by facilitating a team approach to patient care. Once again speaking of that congestive heart failure patient, he explains:
“The patient has been discharged, and the home health agency wants to set up automated monitoring of his blood pressure and weight. If we see his weight or blood pressure go up, then we can search to find out what happened. The issue may be addressed by simply adjusting his medication.”
Those simple early warning signs help Dr. Perry prevent a hospital readmission by calling and adjusting the patient’s treatment plan.“Not only do we help the patient, but we can save thousands of dollars,” he says.
To Dr. Perry, HealthlinkNY is much more than an HIE; “It’s a venue for collaboration.”