July 17, 2013
Technology Push Could Curb Some Houston Health Care Costs
By: Houston Business Journal
By the end of August, Greater Houston Healthconnect will have more than 80 percent of the safety net clinics in the 20 county region using its online secure patient data exchange.
Healthconnect signed Harris Health System last month and expects its hospitals and federally qualified health centers to begin exchanging data next month. The organization is creating a local electronic "pipeline" to facilitate the sharing of patient medical information among different providers and institutions.
While Healthconnect officials say it's too early to tell what the exact savings will be, a study released this week by the University of Michigan suggests the use of electronic health records can reduce the cost of outpatient care by about 3 percent, compared to relying on traditional paper records.
"The results are indicative of what we would hope to find nationwide," said Jim Langabeer, CEO of Greater Houston Healthconnect. "That is exactly why we in the Houston region are so avidly pushing health technology."
Healthconnect also recently went live with electronic records with Houston Medical Imaging, one of the area's largest imaging companies. Providers that use Healthconnect can now view those images, expected to translate into fewer unnecessary tests and a reduction in health care costs.
While it may be too soon to spout numbers of overall savings, some providers have been using electronic records for years. Dr. Kelly Lobley with Houston’s Kelsey-Seybold Clinic has told Houston Business Journal the provider's electronic records save Kelsey-Seybold between $11 million and $15 million per year. Lobley also said the savings providers reap will get passed on to the patients, so it’s in an employer’s best interest to encourage workers to visit health systems or providers that utilize EMRs.