Press Release

September 20, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich announces $1.6 million to improve healthcare in rural counties

 Grant will allow medical institutions to share records electronically giving doctors more immediate access to critical patient information  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today a $1.6 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to improve health care in rural areas of the state. The grants will help create a network that will allow medical facilities in three Southern Illinois counties to confidentially share patient information electronically. Electronically sharing patient information will improve the safety and quality of healthcare for residents in Washington, Marion and Jefferson counties by allowing doctors and medical facilities access to a patient’s health records.

“When a patient is in need of immediate care, the doctor should have immediate access to the patient’s records and medical history. This grant allows us to help rural hospitals and medical facilities to have immediate access to that information, and in turn help improve the healthcare of their patients,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

“Patients will benefit from this new network because a patient’s health information can be more easily accessed,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director. “For example, if a diabetic patient shows up in the emergency department of a hospital with multiple symptoms, the emergency department doctor can access the patient’s health record from the physician’s office to see the status of the patient’s diabetes, which will help the emergency room doctor determine how to treat the patient.”

The electronic health records network will also alert practitioners to order exams for patients who have missed or are due for required or annual exams such as breast and prostate cancer screenings. The network will also help health professionals measure chronic diseases by alerting them to order tests, such as blood glucose and cholesterol tests, on a routine basis and monitor how well patients are doing. The chronic diseases information will routinely be recorded on a common electronic record which can be accessed by all network providers. Having access to patients’ immunization records, not only by the health department and physician’s office, but by the hospital, will help prevent the duplication of an immunization when the patient is admitted to the hospital.

The grant, a Health Information Technology Network Implementation Grant, will create a Patient Health Information Network (PHIN) to connect Washington County Hospital in Nashville, Salem Township Hospital in Salem, SSM St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, two area Rural Health Care Clinics, a Federally Qualified Health Center associated with one of the hospitals and a physician practicing in one of the hospital’s service area, using the same software program to electronically exchange information.

“This grant will enable Salem Township Hospital to implement an electronic health record within the hospital setting, in addition to improving health communication among other local entities such as the Marion County Health Department, physicians, and local pharmacies. With the development of this secure electronic health record, Salem Township Hospital will be positioned to provide our patients with state-of-the art health information technology,” said Salem Township Hospital President Richelle Rennegarbe, RN, PhD.

The Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), a non-profit corporation composed of the 50 critical access hospitals in Illinois, will provide the administrative and financial oversight for the grant, support services to develop the network, an evaluation and marketing opportunities to expand the network to other communities. ICAHN was established in 2003 for the purpose of sharing resources, providing education, promoting efficiencies within individual hospitals and improved healthcare services for member hospitals and their communities.

"The creation of the Patient Health Information Network (PHIN) is the first opportunity for rural residents to benefit from a common electronic health record as most rural providers do not have the financial resources to add technology,” said ICAHN Executive Director Pat Schou.  “PHIN allows rural practitioners such as physicians, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists to share secured patient information among each other and across the country to other practitioners.  Sharing of information through a common electronic health record will enable the rural practitioner to better monitor care and treatment of patients, which in turn, prevents medication errors, reduces complications and encourages health prevention activities, ultimately improving rural residents' health care.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Center for Rural Health will also play a supportive role in the creation of the network.

The Health Information Technology Network Implementation Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, to the Illinois Department of Public Health, will provide $1.6 million to help support the total project cost of more than $3 million. The balance of the project funds will be financed through non-governmental sources.

The State is working on other technological advancement to improve healthcare in Illinois. IDPH recently announced a $1.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a web-based public health data center for the state. The creation of the Illinois Health Data Dissemination Initiative (IHDDI) will improve access to health data to help communities and policy-makers identify and solve health problems. The IHDDI also addresses one of the priorities identified in the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) – improving data information and technology.

In 2006, Gov. Blagojevich announced the creation of the Division of Patient Safety within IDPH, which includes:

  • E-prescribing – allowing physicians to access information about medications the patient may be taking, any potential interactions or allergies and whether the drug is in the patient’s healthcare formulary. Computerized prescriptions are show to have reduced errors by 80 percent according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

  • On-Line physician database – The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is establishing an on-line physician database so patient can learn more about their doctors.

  • Nursing home database – IDPH is expanding the nursing home database to help seniors and their families learn more about each facility.

The Patient Health Information Network, the Illinois Health Data Dissemination Initiative and the Division of Patient Safety are all utilizing technology to help improve healthcare in Illinois.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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