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Regence Pilot Shows Affordability of Electronic Medical Records
Date:6/19/2008

On-line method spans barriers, reveals opportunities

PORTLAND, Ore., June 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The future of health care visited LaGrande, Ore., courtesy of a pilot program funded by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, winning over some fans in the medical community.

"We can't imagine our office without electronic medical records. Our ability to view current patient records during an appointment has allowed us to streamline care and provide more efficient and effective care to our patients," said Patrick McCarthy, M.D., a pediatric and adult urology specialist in LaGrande. "We've seen a huge improvement in our transcription turnaround to within 24 hours, and the system has allowed us to eliminate the gaps in care that can occur with paper records."

Widely heralded as a solution to the fragmented health care system, e-health measures such as electronic medical records allow the free flow of patient information among doctors, testing labs, pharmacies and hospitals.

"There's a lot of discussion in the industry about inefficient medical care and variable quality of care," said Ralph Prows, M.D., Regence senior medical director. "One reason is that our medical information isn't always where we need it to be. Electronic medical records would change that."

The pilot aimed to connect the fragmented components of care in one community, and target the kind of error, waste and duplication of medical procedures that experts estimate devours up to 30 percent of health care dollars.

While agreement on the benefits of e-health measures is widespread, use is not: Less than nine percent of practices with one to three physicians use electronic records, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among large practices, those with 50 or more providers, only half use electronic records in the U.S., compared to 83 percent physician use in the United Kingdom, 72 percent in Australia and 59 per
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