Massachusetts Broadband 123 Director's Corner

Massachusetts Broadband 123 Director s Corner

By Judith Dumont

As summer winds down and we enter the beautiful fall in New England, we are very excited that several towns are operational and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) are connecting to the MassBroadband123 network.

CAIs such as hospitals and healthcare providers play a critical role in a community.

Today high speed broadband is becoming more and more important to our healthcare system.

As health technologies become more prevalent, a patient s health care records can be transferred quickly from one doctor to another; a person can take their blood pressure and send results to their doctor without leaving their home; and doctors and patients can communicate efficiently via email all sent over the electronic highway.

Laying the Foundation for Electronic Healthcare in Massachusetts, Broadband touches many aspects of our lives, by helping small businesses reach new customers, expanding educational opportunities for students, or by increasing our daily interactions with news and social media updates from around the world.

This increased connectivity is also helping revolutionize the delivery of health care, particularly here in Massachusetts, where MBI s program to expand broadband across the state is helping bring greater numbers of health care providers online exchanging critical health care data.

This increased access provides medical professionals with the ability to view enhanced video, more easily share diagnostics, and apply world-class medical applications.

In 2013, healthcare delivery is not confined within the walls of a single hospital or at a doctor s office.

Instead, the healthcare system spans numerous provider organizations, ranging from regional hospitals to long-term care groups, behavioral health providers, and rehabilitation specialists, to name just a few.

The expansion of this system has spawned the use of innovative collaboration technologies that are designed to bridge the gap between providers.

These include electronic health records, or EHRs, video-enhanced telemedicine, and advanced diagnostic applications, all of which can have a positive and profound impact on the quality of care a patient receives.

While we assume that health care organizations are already sharing data online, that may not always be the case.

In a recent interview, Joel Vengco, Chief Information Officer for Springfield-based Baystate Health, noted that sharing health information electronically is common within a large health care system like Baystate, but that sharing data outside that network often requires more traditional means such as, fax machines, phone calls, or human couriers, a method of care coordination that is much slower, costlier, and less effective than we ve come to expect in this digital age.

Here in the Commonwealth, state leaders have set an ambitious goal to address this issue, passing legislation, which mandates that every health care organization in Massachusetts must share health information electronically by 2017.

To help further address the issue, the Commonwealth also built a statewide health information exchange, called the Mass HIway.

Launched in October 2012, the Mass HIway allows health care providers to seamlessly share information through a secure and efficient online system.

The HIway helps diverse sets of health care providers improve patient care coordination, with the parallel goals of improving clinical outcomes while also reducing the overall cost of care.

To help meet these important objectives and build these new systems, the Patrick Administration created the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI), which like MBI is a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

MeHI is responsible for advancing the dissemination of health information technology throughout the Commonwealth, which includes the deployment of EHRs in all health care provider settings.

According to MeHI, Massachusetts has roughly 25,000 active physicians and over 100,000 health care providers, all of whom will need to be brought online to share health information electronically.

While more than 70% of the state s providers are currently using electronic health records, MeHI continues to work to get the remaining 30% onto an EHR system and eventually sharing that data via the Mass HIway.

To assist in the expansion, MBI is helping connect more than 60 health care providers in Western and Central Massachusetts as part of the MassBroadband 123 project s Community Anchor Institution (CAI) network.

By extending this critical broadband backbone to these organizations, a greater number of health care providers in these once under-served regions will now be able to access broadband-level internet, allowing them to utilize EHR systems and share data, something that was unimaginable a few short years ago.

Providers in these regions can also take advantage of MeHI programs that help incentivize connections to the Mass HIway, covering some of the cost of connecting with larger institutions such as Baystate.

The increased access to high-speed broadband statewide will only help providers, patients and the staff at MeHI as they work to get every health care organization in Massachusetts sharing information electronically.

These programs help create a critical link between health care providers that will improve, modernize, and revolutionize healthcare for patients across the Commonwealth.

By building a broadband infrastructure, hospitals and other healthcare facilities will now have the opportunity to connect to providers across the Commonwealth, and potentially the world, taking advantage of technologies that improve the quality, efficiency, and safety of health care for all patients.

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