May 17, 2012

Program’s focus is health information technology

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A program this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will focus on the progress and future of health information technology and its impact on the nation’s health care system.

“EHRs, EMRs and Health Information Technology:  To Meaningful Use and Beyond,” is set for Friday, May 18, at the 14th annual SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute.  The program is in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building at the SIU School of Law.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend any of the sessions.  To schedule a specific presenter for an interview, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Registration ranges from $40 to $125, with up to five hours of continuing legal and medical education credits available.  Pre-registration is preferred but on-site registration is available the day of the program.  Online registration is available at Registration is also available by calling 618/536-7751 or by FAX at 618/453-5680.

The panelists include Nicolas P. Terry, the Hall Render Professor of Law and co-director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and Dr. David Donnersberger, an internal medicine physician and clinical assistant professor with the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.  Donnersberger is a 2000 graduate of the combined MD/JD program at the SIU School of Law and School of Medicine.

Jodi Daniel, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, is part of the program. She will present via videoconference from her office in Washington, D.C.  The program will also be available via video for faculty and students with the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

Health information technology (HIT) is “a major feature of the emerging U.S. health care system,” said W. Eugene Basanta, law professor and Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law.  “We are pinning a lot of hopes on this in terms of creating a higher quality, more efficient health care system.”

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is utilizing more than $3 billion in an initial phase to encourage hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers to provide more computerized and secure electronic health records and electronic medical records.  An estimated 2,000 hospitals and 41,000 physicians have adopted electronic health records to this point, Basanta said.

The next phase will focus on the exchange of patient health information through various electronic delivery systems and facilities.

Terry said several critical questions remain.  There are questions about implications on privacy, confidentiality and security in moving paper-based medical records to electronic formats.  There is evidence that the Food and Drug Administration is looking closely at computer and software regulations, he said.

Terry said another question is whether money to convert to electronic medical records will help change the medical profession culture.

“Are physicians and hospitals really leveraging this fascinating technology to improve access to care, to improve quality of care and to reduce errors, or have we just moved the records out of a metal filing case in the basement and onto a PC?” Terry asked.

The conversions should be complete around 2016, Terry said.

Basanta and Terry said there are instances where the change is translating into longer doctor visits and physicians seeing fewer patients.

Terry said he is excited about Friday’s program.

“There are some great people coming in the fields of law, ethics and the federal government, all of whom I believe will bring a different and really challenging perspective to what I think is one of the most important health care policy debates in the next decade,” he said.

Dave Holland, vice president and chief information officer for innovation technology services with Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH), is also among the panelists.  He believes Southern Illinois is doing well in implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system, with 80 to 90 percent of area physicians already having a system in place, or being in the process of implementing the program.

The three-phase process will take several years to finish, Holland said.  At SIH, there is an EHR for hospital patients “that allows physicians access to the records anywhere, anytime through a secure portal,” he said.  There is also a practice EHR for use with Southern Illinois Medical Services physicians, and for community physicians who contract with SIH for the service, he said.

“We provide data movement, such as lab results between the hospital systems and the practice systems, which allows physicians to see a full picture of a patient’s health care,” he said.  “We are currently working on an Health Information Exchange (HIE) that will allow clinicians to see a patient centric record with a complete record of a patient’s health care, regardless of where the care was provided.”

Donnersberger said the electronic medical record (EMR) systems within a hospital “work wonderfully to allow doctors to follow patient information from health care to health care encounter within a system that is linked up by an EMR.”

“The problem for patients, doctors and society as a whole is that the electronic medical systems have the technological ability to talk to one another between hospital system and hospital system but they do not do so,” he said.   “Within the same city, several large, but competing hospital systems may utilize exactly the same EMR product, yet none communicate with one another.”

Donnersberger said marketplace competition between hospitals, patient information safety concerns, and costs associated with EMR interoperability between hospitals are factors in the delay.

Basanta said the conference represents  “another part of our health law program at the University,” and he notes the critical cooperation between the University and the private sector.

Southern Illinois Healthcare, the SIU School of Medicine, the law school’s Center for Health Law and Policy, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and St. Louis-based Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard law firm are program sponsors.

For more information on the symposium and panelists visit