A statewide health information exchange that would give doctors computerized access to patients' medical histories got a $10 million funding boost Wednesday.
The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, the state agency that sets rates that hospitals can charge, approved the startup funding to build the system that's been studied for several years.
The funding comes from a surcharge of a few pennies on hospital bills, which are mostly footed by insurance companies.
"This will give health care providers the right information at the point of care so that they can make the best diagnosis and treatment decision, while in a framework that protects patient privacy," said David Horrocks, president of Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients.
The organization, which has been tapped to build the exchange, is a nonprofit collaboration among Erickson Retirement Communities, Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar Health and the University of Maryland Medical System.
"Americans are paying attention to health care issues now more than ever," said Dr. Mark Kelemen, chief medical informatics officer at UMMS. "And we know we have to create a more efficient system."
The hospital-bill funding also positions Maryland to apply for federal stimulus funding later this year, officials said.
Proponents say the computerized health information network linking physicians, hospitals, medical laboratories and pharmacies would improve care, advance medical knowledge and save tens of billions of dollars nationally. Such initiatives have been championed by President Barack Obama, and by President George W. Bush.
Earlier this year, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill making Maryland the first state requiring private insurance companies to offer doctors financial incentives to adopt the technology. Doctors who do not bring an electronic medical records system online by 2015 could face penalties.