Erickson, hospitals to create patient information exchange

The Baltimore Sun

In a bid to improve treatment and reduce errors, Erickson Retirement Communities and three Baltimore-area hospital systems said yesterday that they plan to create a pioneering health information exchange that would give emergency room physicians quick access to patients' medication histories.

As part of a governor's initiative, the Maryland Health Care Commission requested in January proposals to create such an exchange.

The commission selected the joint venture of Erickson, which runs retirement communities locally in Catonsville and Parkville, and Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar Health and the University of Maryland Medical System and will provide $250,000 in startup funding through the Health Services Cost Review Commission. The nonprofit venture, Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients, or CRISP, hopes to start its exchange within six months in a couple of the partner hospitals' emergency rooms and eventually expand to all 47 emergency rooms in Maryland.

"We hope to improve information sharing across hospital systems and health care systems in the Maryland region," said Dr. Matt Narrett, chief medical officer for Erickson.

Such an exchange is needed, the group says, to help minimize adverse drug interactions and allergies, prevent errors in dosing, speed up retrieval of patient information and reduce unnecessary paperwork.

Narrett said past attempts to create medical exchanges have failed because of lack of funding or the technical difficulties of sharing a vast array of patient information among hospitals that use noncompatible systems.

CRISP's strategy is to start with a program that limits the information to medication history, and if that works, to expand to additional types of patient information, such as medical or surgical histories, he said. The venture has successfully tested its medication sharing exchange at two Erickson clinics.

"The more information a physician has at the time of decision making, the better decisions they can make," Narrett said.

"Knowing the medical history of patients who are acutely ill who may not be able to remember or able to communicate will be invaluable to emergency room docs. We find it frustrating that health care lags many other businesses in terms of sharing of information," he said.

CRISP has contracted with a pharmacy system called RxHub, which can provide instantaneous electronic information from pharmacies, with a patient's consent.

Besides the state funding, the exchange is being supported financially by the Erickson Foundation, which has pledged up to $5 million, Narrett said.

The health care commission, which received six proposals, also selected the Montgomery County Health Information Exchange Collaborative to receive $250,000 in startup funding.

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