When I need to travel from the southern part of NJ to northern NJ, I often rely on my car or phone GPS and the relative ease and simplicity of the NJ Turnpike. If I needed my southern NJ physician to share information with my northern NJ physician, I might be surprised to learn that it’s not as easy to get my health data from point A to point B. My physicians might be using electronic health records (EHR) and health IT, but the communications infrastructure in NJ needs to be further developed. We need greater awareness and adoption of regional health information organizations (HIOs), a way to fund their maintenance (an EZ Pass system for the transmission of health data?), and development of a connected, statewide system.
In January of 2011, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) awarded New Jersey $11.4 million to be used for developing a strategic and operational plan for health information exchange, and required the state to conduct an independent evaluation of the state’s health IT program. The Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy (CSHP) conducted the evaluation and published a Report (Brownlee, et al) last year showing where New Jersey physicians stand (or stood, during a survey period that ran from late 2013 to early 2014) in terms of adoption and use of health IT.
When I read the Report, I was surprised to see that while physician use of health IT is increasing, the road to regional health data sharing (let alone statewide sharing) seems to be a long way off. The Report found that awareness of the existence of a regional HIO by physicians was low (12.5%), and physician participation in a regional HIO was even lower (6.8%). The New Jersey Turnpike is gloriously accessible and functional as compared with this glimpse of the New Jersey health IT highway.
Where Are We Now? to be continued…