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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: June 2, 2009
Tampa Bay Becomes First Community To Jump-Start America’s E-Health Revolution

A new public/private partnership called PaperFree Tampa Bay, armed with strong Congressional support, launched a plan to jump-start America’s electronic health revolution.

PaperFree Tampa Bay will deploy more than 100 "electronic healthcare ambassadors" with a goal to convert 100 percent of physicians in the Tampa Bay area from paper prescriptions, known to be the cause of costly medical errors, to electronic prescribing.

The effort is a first step toward the implementation of Connected electronic health records (EHR) to improve patient safety and reduce costs, and intends to leverage funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) voiced her support for the funding for the initiative.

"The intent of the Recovery Act is jobs, jobs, jobs," Castor said. "The Recovery Act calls for the creation of short-term jobs in the community while providing long-term economic stability. If funded, this University of South Florida (USF) electronic prescriptions project will create more than a hundred jobs for people who will work alongside physicians in the 10-county area. That will help in the long term as well, especially by improving our healthcare system."

"Our community will thrive in the long run with these high-wage health industry jobs," Castor said. "Through this project, we also are reinvesting in the future in science and technology."

Castor indicated she felt the partnership is positioned to receive funding from a portion of the $2 billion in discretionary funds available to the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Recovery Act. A number of key stakeholders, including USF Health and Allscripts , will fund the initial phase, which will target Hillsborough County’s 3,200 physicians. Once the recovery dollars become available, the program will be expanded to the entire 10-county Tampa Bay region, including the counties of DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota, which will allow additional hiring to occur.

PaperFree Tampa Bay anticipates that the program will create 132 new jobs: 111 trainers and 21 support staff.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the USF College of Medicine, commented, "We are taking President Obama’s vision of an interoperable electronic healthcare system that provides higher quality healthcare more cost-effectively and making it a reality today in Tampa Bay."

Klasko added, "It’s not about the hardware or the software – it’s about changing the DNA of healthcare. We’re talking about transforming the healthcare system one doctor’s office at a time."

Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts, called PaperFree Tampa Bay "the first program in a U.S. metropolitan area to implement the promise of President Obama’s vision of safe, efficient 21st century electronic care."

He added that discussions are underway with other communities in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Iowa that are planning to follow PaperFree Tampa Bay’s lead, and Allscripts is actively enrolling other client partners and cities across the nation in similar programs.

"This will be a proof of concept that can become a model for the entire nation to help physicians quickly and easily transition from paper-based care to electronic health records and in so doing take advantage of federal incentives for their adoption," said Tullman.

"Federal law empowers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to pay physicians between $44,000 and $64,000 over five years, beginning in 2011, for deploying and using a certifiedelectronic health record to care for patients. In addition, federal law provides approximately $3,500 in annual financial incentives for doctors who e-prescribe now and will impose penalties on those who do not e-prescribe by 2012.

e-Prescribing is a key component of EHR technology, and stand-alone e-prescribing solutions are widely viewed as the quickest and easiest means for physicians to transition from paper medical records to fully electronic records. "It’s a relatively easy first step for physicians and a logical place to start because of the huge cost – in dollars and human lives – of our current system of handwritten prescriptions that are hand-delivered to the pharmacy," said Klasko.

Less than 10 percent of physicians in the U.S. currently write prescriptions electronically. PaperFree Tampa Bay will aim to get physicians on board by providing Allscripts Web-based ePrescribe™ software free of charge and offering personalized outreach and one-on-one training to help doctors make the transition. The training curriculum will draw on groundbreaking research conducted at USF Health on how physicians respond to change.

Klasko noted that PaperFree Tampa Bay has set a bold goal – 100 percent physician participation –for an important reason. "The time to transform healthcare is now – we can’t afford to wait," he said. "No doctor should feel comfortable that they are practicing the highest quality medicine in Tampa Bay if they are still hand-writing prescriptions."

PaperFree Tampa Bay’s vision for the region-wide program is that by the end of the effort, 100 percent of Bay-area physicians will be registered and trained on ePrescribe™, 60 percent of eligible prescriptions will be written electronically, and 100 percent of physicians will be introduced to EHR technology.

Tullman added, "We hope the combination of our offering, onsite training, and the new Medicare incentives will eliminate the obstacles and help Tampa Bay physicians embrace electronic prescriptions. This initiative will transform the entire region into one in which all prescriptions can be wirelessly transmitted to the pharmacy, delivering a simple yet comprehensive solution to a key public safety issue, and providing an on-ramp to a complete electronic health record."

Address: University of South Florida, 4202 E. Flower Ave., Tampa, FL 33620; (813) 974-2011,

  This article was taken from:
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