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Eight North Jersey hospitals unveil record-sharing system

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Eight hospitals are moving the New Jersey health industry into the high-tech era as they begin sharing patient medical records electronically in several weeks, a move that will reduce costs and medical mistakes while improving health care. The Health-e-cITi-NJ system was unveiled Tuesday at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, in Secaucus.

"What we are seeing today is the future of health care in New Jersey," Tom Gregorio, chairman of the Health-e-cITi-NJ board of trustees and president and CEO of MHMC, said during Tuesday's event.

The Health-e-cITi-NJ system is one of four health information exchanges in the state that have received federal funding. The process allows doctors at one hospital to swiftly view patient test results, immunization records, medications and other health information, even if that information was collected from another hospital in the exchange. The information will be available to private physicians for followup visits. Electronic medical record sharing will protect patient privacy, reduce waste and costs associated with faxing and mailing patient records, and give doctors the most accurate and up-to-date information to provide the best treatment.

"It's a very important step forward regarding the quality and efficiency of the health care system," said Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association, in Princeton.

In addition to Meadowlands, the other hospitals in Health-e-cITi-NJ are: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center; University Hospital (UMDNJ), in Newark; East Orange General Hospital; St. Michael's Medical Center, in Newark; St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, in Paterson; Jersey City Medical Center; and Christ Hospital, in Jersey City.

"We are building the framework for the sharing of patient medical information between health care providers," said George Popko, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Christ Hospital. "A huge upside to having this (health information exchange) in place is that it will enable a patient's doctor, their hospital and pharmacy the ability to share their medical information so that medical care can be dispensed accurately, appropriately and safely."

Other hospitals in different health information exchanges have been actively involved with getting their systems up and running, and are nearing their own launches.

"We're doing implementation right now as we speak," said Benjamin Bordonaro, acting vice president and chief information officer of information technology at Hackensack University Medical Center, referring to testing to the Jersey Health Connect HIE in which the hospital is networked with 17 other hospitals, including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in New Brunswick.

"We are doing quite a bit in this area," said Peter Haigney, spokesman at RWJUH. "The overall goal of the initiative is for all participating hospitals to be able to share patient data (electronically) by the end of 2012. The first phase is to provide all participants with the ability to share emergency department data by the end of the first quarter in 2012. Ultimately, all hospitals will have the ability to share and view physician notes and case summaries."

He added that RWJUH is also recruiting community physicians to participate in the initiative, and also is anticipating providing patients access to their electronic medical records via an online portal.

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