State Sen. Jim Wilson has called on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to take advantage of a new electronic medical data sharing network. Wilson says the network, called SMRTNET for secure medical records transfer network, has been offered at no charge to OHCA, and would help reduce preventable medical errors, improve care and save tax dollars. Wilson said participation by OHCA in the system will not only respond to the requirements set forth in HB 2842 (the Medicaid Reform bill) but will save time and money.
“By switching to electronic medical records, we can reduce costs and improve health care delivery,” said Wilson, D-Tahlequah. “We already have a number of public, community, hospital, tribal and university health care providers signed on to partner in this network, including the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Cherokee Nation Health Services and other providers. Since 16 percent of the population in Oklahoma is served by Medicaid, and these entities take care of a significant number of Medicaid patients, it makes perfect sense for OHCA to join in this partnership.”
The network, which is being built at a cost of $3.4 million through a combination of federal grants and provider time and equipment, is deploying a multi-county test region this winter which can ultimately be expanded to a statewide system that will serve both public and private providers. The network has been developed by over sixty health professionals over the course of two years.
In Oklahoma the state Medicaid system is under great pressure to contain costs on the over $3.6 billion they spend on healthcare.
“In 2004 Oklahoman’s spent $16.7 billion on medical care, but according to a recent study almost $1.9 billion of that could be saved by going to an electronic medical records system,” Wilson said. “By participating in the network the OHCA can begin to establish improved controls on costs and improve care at the same time. For example, the lack of a computer based medical data sharing network causes sixteen percent of laboratory tests to be repeated. Providers are very frustrated and overworked and they need the advantage of a better medical records system.”
SMRTNET is part of a national effort to modernize health care by changing the medical system from paper to secure electronic information. Wilson said the President and Congress are providing special funds to help change the country from paper to electronic medical records within eight years, which will save $162 billion annually in medical costs by eliminating waste, decreasing preventable medical errors, and improving care.
“We have outstanding medical practitioners in Oklahoma, yet nationally, 34 percent of individuals surveyed report that they have experienced a serious medical error, and data from physicians agree. Almost all of this is directly or indirectly a result of our outdated paper record system,” Wilson said. “Medical errors are very costly and are the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. according to an Institute of Medicine report. This is more than car accidents, breast cancer or HIV/Aids. Medical errors account for 17 percent of hospitalizations. Clearly there’s a better way, and we believe SMRTNET is the solution.”
Wilson said the development of SMRTNET will save Oklahoma several years and millions of dollars in development costs. The lawmaker said members of the executive task force overseeing expansion of the network met with representatives of OHCA last week about the project.
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ providers of health care, OHCA, Health Choice and the private insurance companies will move to comprehensive electronic medical records,” Wilson said. “The only question is whether they take advantage of a system that will already be in place or spend millions on a duplicate service. The offer to include OHCA as a developmental partner in this test at no charge is a truly extraordinary opportunity for our state to make improved use of our healthcare tax dollars.”