Grant to help Berkshire Medical Center, other providers share electronic records


PITTSFIELD >> Berkshire Medical Center is among seven state medical organizations that have each received $434,000 grants to enhance coordination among community healthcare providers and improve patient care.

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) at the Mass Tech Collaborative granted a total of $3.03 million to the seven organizations. The other entities are located in Brockton, Hyannis, Lowell, Newburyport, Springfield and Worcester.

In the Berkshires, the funding will be used to establish the Berkshire Connected Communities Project, which will allow BMC and seven local project partners to share patient's electronic medical records when and where it is legally appropriate.

"The grant will help support connectivity between our multiple electronic health records across Berkshire County, facilitating between communication between care givers at various transition of care touch points," said Mark Snowise, medical director for physician practices at Berkshire Health Systems.

The seven partner organizations, chosen for the project because they represent a good cross-section of the health care practices in the Berkshires, are Family Practice Associates, Berkshire Medical Group, Berkshire Healthcare Systems Inc., Community Health Programs, Berkshire Orthopedic Associates Inc., The Brien Center, and Eastern Mountain Medical Associates.

Like BMC, Berkshire Healthcare Systems is a subsidiary of Berkshire Health Systems, the county's largest employer. The six other organizations are not directly affiliated with BHS. Great Barrington-based CHP is a federally qualified health center.

The project's goal is to achieve the alignment of collaborative care practice models with supporting health IT to create new opportunities for patient care and quality improvement.

It will create tools that allow clinicians to electronically receive timely hospital admission notifications and discharge summaries, and exchange services notes and care plans.

William Young, chief information officer for BHS, said health care organizations have made great strides in switching their records from paper to electronic communications, but they still have difficulty providing that information between agencies when a patient visits another health care organization.

"All of those groups independently have done a great job with electronic medical records," Young said, referring to the agencies involved in the Berkshire Connected Communities Project. "But the data is still locked up almost like a paper record. The next step is to move that record with the patient so that we can share the data.

"The goal of the grant is to help us, Berkshire Health Systems, connect with all of these other partners out there," Young said. "It will help us share the data in a bidirectional way as patients move out to different areas."

The grant provides a two-year window for BMC to establish the Berkshire Connected Communities project with its seven project partners, Young said.

"Berkshire Health Systems has already made major investments in this," said Young, referring to the technology needed to set up the project. "Most of the money is going to help the other practices connect to the technology that we've already invested in."

Collaborations such as this one have been occurring in health care for some time now, said CHP's interim executive director Lia Spiliotes. She is also a partner and senior advisor at Cambridge Management Group in Boston with 25 years of experience in the health care field.

"It helps everybody who is part of the collaboration," she said. "It basically means that when we book our patients they can move relatively seamlessly through the different organizations.

"Healthcare has always been one of the lagging industries with technology and integrating it into care," she said. "With this money we all benefit. It lifts all the boats."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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