The rural parish of Pointe Coupee will soon have a more advanced electronic network of medical information than most other areas of the state.  That’s because funds awarded this week through the federal Department of Health and Human Services are being used to establish a health information technology network in the Pointe Coupee Parish area.  The goals of this effort are to improve coordination of care, increase quality of care and provide cost savings to the system.

The $1.5 million grant will link 11 rural health care providers serving the region.  Network members include Pointe Coupee General Hospital, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, four local rural health clinics managed by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in New Roads, Innis Community Health Center, Better Access to Community Health, two private practice primary care clinics and Pointe Coupee Homebound Health and Hospice.

“Establishing this network is going to change the way health care is delivered in Pointe Coupee,” explained Dr. Roxane Townsend, Department of Health secretary.  “We expect to see improved patient safety, lower health care costs and improved management of chronic disease through streamlined electronic information sharing.”

Designated as a health care shortage area for primary, mental health and dental care, Pointe Coupee Parish has many health challenges.  The parish is also considered a medically underserved area.  While there are nine private providers locally, 50 percent of these are near retirement and have significantly reduced their hours of operation.  Also, Pointe Coupee General Hospital is the only hospital in the parish and has a total of 25 beds.  Establishing an electronic health information network within this system is expected to improve the overall health care system and, more importantly, improve patient care.

Dr. Townsend added, “One goal of the Louisiana Health Care Redesign Collaborative has been to increase the state’s use of health information technology to further develop a comprehensive network of electronic health information exchange.  This is step toward achieving that goal.”

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General found that Louisiana is among only 12 states that are leading the country when it comes to adopting health information technology.  These states are championed by federal officials as being at the forefront in a long-range national plan to improve the quality of health care and control spiraling costs by the year 2014.

Several other Louisiana parishes and communities are working to develop projects or have implemented health information technology on a smaller scale.  It is hoped that funding opportunities from the federal government will continue to be made available in order to fund similar projects in the future.