A regional healthcare information network for infants is moving forward in southern Mississippi under a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at HHS.
Last year, a coalition of providers that included Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, a 526-bed, county-owned health system, and the 200-plus-physician Hattiesburg Clinic, the largest multispecialty medical group in the state, and the University of Southern Mississippi was awarded a three-year AHRQ grant totaling nearly $1.5 million to expand an electronic records-sharing program for high-risk infants and their families that would link hospitals, health centers and clinics in several counties using telemedicine and a Web-based portal. It was one of 16 grants awarded at the time by AHRQ to promote IT projects in states that had already received AHRQ money for project planning.
William Peters, M.D., vice president of medical affairs for Forrest General, said the hospital in 1997 began installing an electronic medical-records system, now a Misys Healthcare Systems product, then used an over-the-street walkway to string fiber optic cable to the adjacent, but independent, Hattiesburg Clinic, which has its own EMR from InteGreat Concepts.
About four years ago, leaders at the hospital and clinic began looking at ways to extend connectivity to other community and regional providers and decided a Web-based portal would be the best tool, Peters said. Money was the holdup, but the AHRQ grant allowed them to move forward on a limited basis, creating video links between the neonatal intensive-care units at Forrest General and Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, and the specialists who serve both hospitals from Southern Mississippi Neonatology. Another goal is to provide electronic access to the infants medical records to independent primary-care physicians in the region and 10 clinics affiliated with the Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative.
The portal seemed to be the best answer to disburse the information to all the other facilities, Peters said. Thus far, the specialists are already connected and can do video-conferencing, Peters said.
This is the primary step, Peters said. The next step is to bring those other facilities online so they can hit connect and see all the information, Peters said.