The Louisiana Rural Health Information Technology Partnership received $1.1 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.  The grant award will be used to increase technology for critical access hospitals and providers.

The Louisiana Rural Health Information Technology Partnership developed a project to implement an electronic medical record system in the emergency departments of 10 critical access hospitals. The grant will also allow electronic information to be shared with other community-based health care providers such as federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics.

The purpose of this project is to improve patient safety and quality of care within these hospitals and to develop more effective mechanisms for ensuring accurate and timely information sharing of common patients and stronger local referral patterns.

“The Governor has called for reform to improve quality of care through focusing on performance outcomes, provider accountability, use of best practices and standardization of treatment protocols,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise.  “Through this partnership and with this federal grant, we will see improved quality and outcomes for patients in Louisiana.”

Grant funds will be used to provide hardware and software to implement electronic medical record services in the 10 hospitals and to evaluate the use of this technology toward improving patient safety and quality of care.  The project also will allow other community health care providers to access emergency department discharge summaries to improve continuity and quality of care.

Electronic medical records generate the patient’s medical record in real time with immediate availability of a printed, legible and complete patient record that exceeds the quality of a transcribed record. By using electronic medical records, providers have the ability to cross reference a patient’s medications with any medications considered in the emergency department, thus reducing the likelihood of adverse drug interactions.

The benefits of implementing such a system in critical access hospitals will be avoidance of errors due to illegibility, improved access to clinical information from the emergency department encounter, improved coordination of communication between physicians and nursing providers, ability to extract data for continuous quality improvement and other reporting activities, investment in technology to upgrade systems in rural areas and improved coordination and collaboration in local communities. 

As a partner in the project, the Louisiana Department of Health – Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health will assist in the implementation of the project. Bureau staff helped convene the project partners and facilitate the grant process, and they will continue to assist by convening additional partners and training staff on the electronic medical records system. 

The Bureau also will utilize the electronic medical records systems as a more effective tool for accessing and analyzing all of the data elements required for participation in its Web-based quality improvement initiative, which will aid in the implementation of a standardized quality improvement procedure in all critical access hospitals.

The grant application was submitted to the Agency for Health Research and Quality in April 2004 by the partnership. The grant award is matched dollar for dollar by participating partners’ in-kind and cash contributions. 

The Louisiana Rural Health Information Technology Partnership is made up of the Louisiana Department of Health – Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health, the Louisiana Hospital Association, the Louisiana Rural Hospital Coalition, the Louisiana Rural Health Association, the Louisiana Health Care Review, Assumption Community Hospital (Lead Agent for the project) and nine additional critical access hospitals.  Other participating hospitals include CHRISTUS Coushatta Hospital, DeQuincy Memorial Hospital, Jackson Parish Hospital, Madison Parish Hospital, Pointe Coupee General Hospital, St. Helena Parish Hospital, St. James Parish Hospital, Union General Hospital and West Feliciana Parish Hospital.