IT landscape changing for sharing Oklahoma patient medical records

While the last of federal stimulus money was spent last month to help build Oklahoma’s infrastructure for sharing electronic medical records, private competition is heating up between a Tulsa-based network and a new one based in Norman.
by Paula Burkes Modified: April 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm •  Published: April 13, 2014

A new Web-based platform to which state health care providers can connect to share medical records of patients and provide better transitional care is scheduled to go live April 22 with the business of most Oklahoma City-based hospitals and their affiliates statewide.

Meanwhile, Tulsa-based MyHealth Access Network reports it soon will complete a transfer of assets from Tahlequah-based Secure Medical Records Transfer Network (SMRTNet), which MyHealth has managed since late 2012 and to which the Oklahoma City hospitals are connected. Their contracts expire May 1.

The new Norman-based network, Coordinated Care Oklahoma, and MyHealth — both nonprofit organizations — will compete for the business of hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and health care providers statewide, who, based on the number of providers, pay monthly subscriptions for connectivity, much like Internet companies compete for market share.

Fees range from $20 a month for a one-physician practice to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for large medical systems.

Coordinated Care Oklahoma Chief Administrative Officer Brian Yeaman, whose consulting company manages Coordinated Care Oklahoma, believes two networks will be good for the state, driving competitive pricing and improved service. David Kendrick, chief executive of MyHealth, disagrees.

“Think of the exchange like a public utility,” said Kendrick, who believes one network would lower operating costs. “You don’t need two exchanges any more than you need two water supply companies.”

What Yeaman and Kendrick, who are both physicians, passionately agree upon is the benefit and need to electronically share records. Since 2008, both have helped build Oklahoma’s connectivity, which includes some 70 percent of health care providers, compared with only 20 percent nationally.

All providers are required to connect to an exchange by fiscal year 2016, or face reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Yeaman, a Norman family physician who built and runs the information exchange of Norman Regional Health System, recently saw a patient who had received care at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital a few days prior.

“She was acting confused, and I asked her if she was sure she didn’t have a stroke,” Yeaman said. “She said she didn’t think so, but that she was put on three new meds.”

Yeaman logged onto SMRTNet to check his patient’s medications, and instantly realized a common side effect of one of the drugs she was prescribed is confusion. He was close to sending her back to the hospital, but instead simply changed her medication, he said.

Similarly, Kendrick, an internist and pediatrician at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Community Medicine in Tulsa, said the exchange regularly keeps him from sending patients to the emergency room.

“I can check their records and see that their cholesterol is normal, or their EKG (electrocardiogram) hasn’t changed,” he said.

Some not connected

“Patients choose their doctors, not their hospitals, and shouldn’t have to worry that their medical records won’t follow them across the street to different providers,” Kendrick said.

Studies show sharing electronic health records reduces duplicated orders, harmful drug interactions and missed diagnostic opportunities, while boosting better health care, lower health care costs and better health outcomes. But despite the far-reaching benefits, some Oklahoma providers — including Variety Care — haven’t yet connected to a health information exchange.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Oklahoma’s Health Information Organizations:

MyHealth Access Network: Based in Tulsa, the nonprofit organization started in 2009 and represents Saint Francis Health System, St. John Medical System, Hillcrest Healthcare System, OU Physicians and others statewide, including subscribers to the Tahlequah-based SMRTNet (Secure Medical Records Transfer Network), which it’s managed since December 2012.

Coordinated Care Oklahoma: Based in Norman, the nonprofit organization goes live April 22 and represents Norman Regional Health System, Integris-Health, Mercy, St. Anthony Hospital, OU Medical Center, the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, Duncan Regional Hospital and their affiliates and physician groups statewide.

SOURCES: MyHealth Access Network and Coordinated Care Oklahoma

Patients choose their doctors, not their hospitals, and shouldn’t have to worry that their medical records won’t follow them across the street to different providers.”

David Kendrick,
Chief executive of MyHealth

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