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Health IT improving medical care

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Sept. 16 to 20 is National Health Information Technology Week. National HIT Week is an opportunity to recognize the value of health IT to the United States health care system.

During this week, we are joining the National HIT community to inform the public of the progress of health IT and how it improves health care in the nation and specifically in the north country. We are also taking this opportunity to recognize our providers for their contributions to implementing HIT in our region. We are encouraging you to do the same.

What is HIT? Simply put, HIT involves the private and secure exchange of health information in an electronic environment. Widespread use of HIT within the health care industry will improve the quality of health care, prevent medical errors, reduce health care costs, increase administrative efficiencies, decrease paperwork and expand access to affordable health care.

What has been accomplished in the north country? We have been developing a sustainable system including trained HIT professionals, 17 of whom just completed a six-month certification program through Jefferson Community College and are ready to support our regional needs.

There is a lot to support considering that all of the hospitals, almost all of the primary care practices, clinics and many specialty practices in our region have electronic health records and are connected to each other via HealtheConnections, the Health Information Exchange. Does your provider have an EHR and are they connected to the HIE?

How did this happen? This could not have been accomplished without the leadership and guidance of the providers.

Implementing this technology was no small feat. Many small practices and even larger organizations such as the hospitals contributed many hours and relied on the expertise of staff, physicians and technical experts in order to successfully connect it all together. In order to complete this implementation, providers and staff were required to work several extra hours every day for nearly four years.

Why all the effort? As you know, the providers and their staff in our region care greatly for their patients.

They did this because they understand that it will provide timely and accurate information to deliver the best possible care. They also know that the future of health care is changing and by leading this effort they have positioned our community for success now and into the future.

What is next? On the horizon are patient portals, the next link to engage patients and make them a key part of the care team.

We are starting to see providers in the community offering patient portals to empower patients in managing their own health. Do you know if your doctor has a patient portal?

What can you do? As our country tries to solve the health care crisis, we feel confident in the future of quality health care in our region due to the commitment, leadership and expertise of our providers. So the next time you see your provider at an appointment, the market or at church, be sure to thank them for their hard work, dedication and leadership they have provided to our community.

How does Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization help? We strengthen the health care for Fort Drum soldiers, their families and the surrounding civilian community by analyzing the health care system, identifying gaps and leveraging resources to fill those gaps through regional partnerships. One key partnership is the North Country Health Information Partnership, which was formed to support and expand HIT throughout the region.

If you have questions about health information technology or would like to consider HIT as a career, please contact the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization at 315-755-2020 or alyndaker@FDRHPO.org.

Corey Zeigler is the director of the North Country Health Information Partnership.

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