Buoyed by the Obama administration’s emphasis on funding for electronic health records (EHRs), the annual budget for health information technology at the federal department of Health & Human Services is $2 billion. Other agencies investing in EHRs are the NIH, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation.

That was part of the good news message from Jed Seltzer, executive director of the New Jersey Health Information Technology Commission. New Jersey has a number of companies focusing on the development of EHRs, and the electronic health record business is a potential growth area, said Seltzer at the first public meeting of the Princeton Job Creation Forum on November 4.

Electronic health records are sometimes considered the “white knight” that can reduce medical errors in such areas as accurate patient identification, taking medication histories in emergency departments and hospitals, prescribing medication, delivery of laboratory results. But implementing EHRs is an expensive and daunting task. That’s where potential funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) can come in handy.

Seltzer, who spoke the day after the election of Chris Christie as the governor, said the new administration could potentially signal some big changes in the NJHIT Commission. Seltzer will convene a meeting of the commission on Thursday, December 3, at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, Health and Agriculture Building, first floor auditorium, 369 South Warren Street, Trenton. Call 609-292-9382 or 609-292-7837.

The commission will likely hear a report about how the New Jersey Health Information Exchange Project is bidding for money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a project called the State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program (visit www.nj.gov/health/bc/hitc.shtml).

A big benefit of improved IT, taken from the report, would be developing ways to share radiology results between hospitals, so that previous images could be benchmarked.

Another example deals with emergency room crowding, “in part due to poor access to primary care and in part to poor patient awareness of how to effectively receive primary care for non-emergent health events.”

If informed about patients who might not have a primary care physician, clinics could reach out to those patients to provide appropriate, primary, clinic-based care.

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