Governor Gregoire Announces $1 Million Awarded for Health Technology Projects

For Immediate Release: November 1, 2006

OLYMPIA – Governor Chris Gregoire today announced the Washington Health Information Collaborative has selected 49 recipients for awards of up to $20,000 for health information technology. The awards will be used to implement and upgrade technology in small hospitals, community clinics and private practices across Washington. Expanding access to health information technology is a key component of Governor Gregoire’s initiative to improve health care in Washington.

“I am committed to improving health care in Washington and ensuring that all patients have access to updated health information technology is a key part of that initiative,” said Governor Gregoire. “These awards show our commitment to partner with the public sector and with providers to make this a reality.”

Recipients plan to use the awards to purchase or add to existing electronic health records (EHR) and other computerized patient management systems; establish online connections to hospitals, local pharmacies, and labs to make current patient information immediately available; expand their ability to extract and analyze data from patient files; create secure systems to communicate with employees by email and share patient records with other health care providers; and purchase computers for exam rooms or laptops to use during hospital and home visits.

The Washington Health Information Collaborative is a public-private partnership that promotes the use of health information technology to improve the quality of patient care and reduce the cost of care. It is funded by $500,000 from the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) and $500,000 from First Choice Health. Qualis Health and the Puget Sound Health Alliance also participate.

“The members of the Collaborative recognize the dangers of a ‘haves and have-not’ gap between small and large providers,” said HCA Administrator Steve Hill. “These awards help bridge that gap.”

“The central purpose in these technology awards is to help make the best possible health care available to patients throughout the Northwest,” said Ken Hamm, President and CEO of First Choice Health. “Until now, this has been much too expensive for small and rural hospitals and physician practices. Our aim is to bring many more people into the 21st century health care treatment room.”

Dr. Kevin B. Martin, a partner at Auburn Family Medical Center, says electronic health records are essential to providing state-of-the-art health care.

“One of our partners is fond of saying that EHR is to public health in the 21st century what clean water was in the 19th century,” said Dr. Martin.

Auburn Family Medical Center will implement a full-featured electronic health record and wireless network that has been in the research and planning stages for four years. Healthy Future Pediatrics in Olympia will link together its EHR and web site, which will allow patients access to their lab reports and health records.

“Expanding the communication options for health care by allowing patients and parents a more active role in their care is a vital component of our mission to help children,” said Dr. Carl Lindgren, owner and lead physician at Healthy Future Pediatrics.