A new partnership called PaperFree Tampa Bay, armed with strong Congressional support, today launched a plan to jump-start America’s electronic health revolution. PaperFree Tampa Bay will deploy more than 100 “electronic healthcare ambassadors” with a goal to convert 100 percent of physicians in the Tampa Bay area from paper practices, known to be the cause of costly medical errors, to all-electronic practices. The effort is a first step toward the implementation of connected Electronic Health Records (EHR) to improve patient safety and reduce costs, and intends to leverage funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) voiced her support for the funding at a press conference announcing the initiative which was attended by a broad array of healthcare, business and government leaders from across the Bay area.
“The intent of the Recovery Act is jobs, jobs, jobs,” Congresswoman Castor said. “The Recovery Act calls for the creation of short-term jobs in the community while providing long-term economic stability. If funded, this University of South Florida electronic prescriptions project will create more than a hundred jobs for people who will work alongside physicians in the 10-county area. That will help in the long term as well, especially by improving our healthcare system.”
“Our community will thrive in the long run with these high-wage health industry jobs,” Castor said. “Through this project, we also are reinvesting in the future in science and technology.”
Castor indicated she felt the partnership is positioned to receive funding from a portion of the $2 billion in discretionary funds available to the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Recovery Act. A number of key stakeholders, including USF Health and Allscripts, will fund the initial phase, which will target Hillsborough County’s 3,200 physicians. Once the recovery dollars become available, the program will be expanded to the entire 10-county Tampa Bay region, including the counties of DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota, which will allow additional hiring to occur.
PaperFree Tampa Bay anticipates that the program will create 132 new jobs: 111 trainers and 21 support staff.
Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of USF Health and Dean of the USF College of Medicine, commented, “We are taking President Obama’s vision of an interoperable electronic healthcare system that provides higher quality healthcare more cost-effectively and making it a reality today in Tampa Bay.” Dr. Klasko added, “It’s not about the hardware or the software – it’s about changing the DNA of healthcare. We’re talking about transforming the healthcare system one doctor’s office at a time.”
Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer of Allscripts, the leading provider of Electronic Health Records with a client base of nearly one-third of the nation’s practicing physicians and the largest electronic prescribing vendor, called PaperFree Tampa Bay “the first program in a U.S. metropolitan area to implement the promise of President Obama’s vision of safe, efficient 21st century electronic care.” Federal law empowers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to pay physicians between $44,000 and $64,000 over five years, beginning in 2011, for deploying and using a certified Electronic Health Record to care for patients. In addition, federal law provides approximately $3,500 in annual financial incentives for doctors who e-prescribe now and will impose penalties on those who do not e-prescribe by 2012.
Electronic prescribing is a key component of EHR technology, and stand-alone e-prescribing solutions are widely viewed as the quickest and easiest means for physicians to transition from paper medical records to fully electronic records. “It’s a relatively easy first step for physicians and a logical place to start because of the huge cost – in dollars and human lives – of our current system of handwritten prescriptions that are hand-delivered to the pharmacy,” said Dr. Klasko.