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VT hits 85% EHR implementation, health information exchange milestones

The Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL) released its annual progress report, which documented an increase in EHR implementation among Vermont health care providers, a successful push to connect hospitals to the state health information network and increase residents’ representation in the statewide master patient index. It also outlined IT support plans for new health reform efforts like accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient information-sharing consent policies.

Regarding EHR implementation, the report gets straight to the point: Last year, VITL hit the 90% saturation rate for EHR adoption among the state’s primary care providers – 891 in total. As of December 2012, 770 of them (85%) have gone live on an EHR, yielding an overall 35% increase in EHR implementation from 2011.

With more EHRs online, VITL was able to plug more into its statewide health information exchange (HIE). Currently 12 out of Vermont’s 14 hospitals are now connected. In total, more than 60 clinic sites now receive data from the network, a little more than double the 26 that did at the end of 2011. What’s more, of the 12 connected hospitals, eight store data in the core infrastructure, allowing other health care providers to search the patient information database. All in all, the 2012 calendar year finished with 543,500 persons in the core infrastructure’s master patient index, up from 300,000 in 2011.

VITL said it will continue to make increasing the patient index a main priority, lobbying for more legislative support and funding to incentivize hospitals to build interfaces. According to the report, cost is the main issue for health care professionals in niche sectors like mental health in particular, as building interfaces to connect their EHRs to the network proves expensive. The VITL plans to continue using state funding to reimburse primary care providers for interfacing costs.

Looking forward, VITL hopes to bring all providers into the network before July 2015. Additionally, VITL aims to implement the state’s new patient consent policy, which will allow practitioners to search statewide for data on a patient when the individual grants permission.

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