|Tampa Bay Becomes First Community to Jump-Start E-Health Revolution
A new public/private partnership called PaperFree Tampa
Bay, armed with strong Congressional support, launched a plan to
jump-start the 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-Tampa) 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 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
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
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, "Weare 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
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
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 certified
Electronic 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.
Electronic 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,"
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
"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
Address: University of South Florida, 4202 E. Flower Ave., Tampa, FL 33620; (813) 974-2011, www.usf.edu.