New York Medical Database Aids Doctors, Patients

New York is quietly building one of the nation’s largest computer databases of medical records, a system that when finished will allow patients and doctors alike to see complete health histories in one place and promises to save millions in costs by avoiding redundant tests and unneeded hospital admissions. People who visit emergency rooms are less likely to be admitted when they’re enrolled in the program, and repeat radiological scans and hospital readmissions are also less likely, according to initial limited studies done around Rochester, New York’s third-largest city.

“The value to society is also tremendous in avoiding unnecessary and redundant health care,” said Dr. Rainu Kaushal, chairwoman of Weill Cornell Medical College’s Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, who conducted the Rochester studies on the system, known as SHIN-NY—which stands for the State Health Information Network of New York and is pronounced “shiny.”

There’s a broader effort nationally to advance medicine from paper to computer files. The Veterans Administration, for instance, already has centralized records for nearly 3 million people that both patients and doctors can look at. In such exchanges, patients must sign consent forms to have records included. They are subject to the same federal privacy restrictions that already apply to patient records in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

New York’s is being treated as a public utility, with providers paying a fee to connect but able to query patient records without added costs. Centralized records can be useful because patients with complicated conditions may be unable to accurately recall all their treatments and medications from various doctors, or they may be in the throes of a medical crisis and unable to communicate, Kaushal said.

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(Courtesy of The Wall St. Journal)