Today, the nation’s first large-scale health record bank (HRB) began operations in Phoenix, Arizona. Known as eHealthTrust, it provides consumers with the opportunity to have a secure place to collect and store their health records under their control. I am pleased and honored to be leading the team that developed and implemented this project.
Folks watching this blog know that it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything (almost two years!). It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say — rather, I’ve been busy taking my own advice. Specifically, it’s been clear to me for some time that the key problems that need to be solved to enable access to comprehensive electronic patient records when and where needed are: 1) privacy; 2) stakeholder cooperation; 3) making all the medical records electronic; and 4) financial sustainability. A health record bank can solve all these problems, provided it has the right business model. Which brings me back to Phoenix …
The eHealthTrust health record bank is offering lifetime accounts for a one-time $99 fee. Ongoing revenue comes from optional reminders and alerts, such as the “peace of mind” reminder that instantly notifies your loved ones if your HRB account is accessed by an ER physician. eHealthTrust also will be providing free EHRs for office-based physicians in the Phoenix area (or subsidies for existing systems) to ensure that all the records become electronic. We anticipate working very closely with the local Regional Extension Center (REC) to help physicians make the transition to EHRs and meet the Meaningful Use criteria so they can take advantage of the substantial Medicare and Medicaid subsidies over the next few years ($44,000 for Medicare and $63,750 for Medicaid).
What do eHealthTrust members get for their $99? A secure, electronic “safe deposit box” for their medical records that will be automatically populated over time. Initially, medication and some laboratory data will be loaded, along with a problem list from their primary care physician (if available). Later, more lab data along with hospital discharge summaries, imaging and pathology reports, and encounter reports from physician EHRs will be added (as connections to data sources are made and more physicians adopt EHRs and link them to the HRB). We will also be working to make HRB records available to EMTs while they are traveling to the site of a 911 medical emergency.
Why should you care? If you are in the Phoenix area, you should go to the eHealthTrust web site and sign up now. Then you will be able to have, for the first time ever, a secure and private place where your medical records will be available, under your control, to share with your health care providers (and family, too, if you wish).
What if you’re not in the Phoenix area? Hopefully, a health record bank will be coming to your community very soon. More importantly, the success of eHealthTrust in Phoenix will mark the beginning of the solution to the problem of delivering comprehensive electronic patient records when and where needed — which has been a national priority since the President created the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in 2004. Lack of availability of such records results in duplicate testing and procedures, as well as costly (and sometimes dangerous) medical errors. There is good evidence that more complete information will both reduce costs and improve quality — which would certainly be good news for health care.
So watch this space for further developments about health record banking — and join us in the hope that this will be a major step forward for health care not just in Phoenix, but across the entire country.