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An upstate organization has become one of the first in the country to enable hospitals and ambulance services to share patient information on a large scale.

Rochester RHIO has created an information exchange to enable doctors to access Emergency Medical Service records.

Executive Director Ted Kremer says this has often been a missing piece of the puzzle for doctors when they are trying to piece together a full picture of a patient’s record.

“You show up, someone’s fallen down or they’ve fainted, the EMS people go and stabilize the patient, they treat the patient, and that information doesn’t really go anywhere,” Kremer says.

“And actually a lot of patients end up using the EMS as a mobile emergency department. So they’re actually providing a lot of care that no one really knows about.”

Kremer says prior to the launch of their system, information from EMS agencies was rarely seen by primary care physicians, and that could have major implications for overall patient treatment.

He says enabling doctors to access the EMS records will result in better patient care.

Currently 18 ambulance services, including all services in Monroe County, share their records, and the information is being accessed by five hospitals in the region.

Kremer says there’s been good feedback from the hospitals so far.

“We’ve actually shown in those five hospitals that it has reduced hospital admissions, and readmissions. So information does make a difference.”

He concedes that the extra information can complicate a doctor’s work flow.

“Introducing new work flows into a physician’s practice or a hospital can be complex. We’ve got five hospitals that use this in the emergency department every day and they’ve figured out those work flows and they see it as very valuable. But, having said that, bringing in new information and introducing that information into a workflow – particularly in a larger setting – is a little more complex.”

But, he says the systems are piloted before they encourage multiple organizations to take them on, and Rochester RHIO provides training where it is needed.

Kremer also says moving forward in information sharing despite potential glitches is something the health care system needs to do.

“We really are, in health care, at least two decades behind in a lot of information technology adoption, particularly when it relates to getting a patient’s information to the right place at the right time.”

Kremer says he hopes that other areas of upstate New York, and around the nation, will follow their lead and start integrating EMS records into a patient’s regular medical records.

The program was initially funded in 2010 by the New York state Department of Health.

The next step, Kremer says, is to make the information flow two ways. Rochester RHIO is aiming to allow EMS personnel to access certain general patient information like allergies, medications, and history to enable them to provide better patient care.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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