PaperFree Tampa Bay seeks stimulus money for electronic prescriptions

03/16/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:


Most Tampa Bay doctors will soon write prescriptions electronically instead of on paper, if the University of South Florida receives eighteen million dollars in federal recovery act funding. This morning on the Tampa campus, USF Health launched what they’re calling PaperFree Tampa Bay.

Stephen Klasko, the Dean of USF’s College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health, calls PaperFree Tampa Bay a “bold campaign to jumpstart America’s e-health revolution.”

“We set a goal to convert all 10,000 physicians in the region to electronic prescribing as a transitional first step towards universal electronic health records or EHR. Because EHR is where we need to go and we need to go now. So if you think about the president saying that healthcare needed an extreme makeover, in Tampa Bay we’re providing the primer coat.”

USF Health is applying to the federal government for an $18 million grant to expand the program to ten counties in the region, but will partner with a private company to cover Hillsborough County whether or not the grant is received. If it does receive federal funding, Klasko says PaperFree Tampa Bay will create more than 100 temporary training and support positions.

“This innovative public-private partnership, which includes USF Health and Allscripts among its stakeholders, will seek federal recovery dollars to fund a two-year effort that will create 132 new jobs, a whole new class of jobs. An army of e-health ambassadors who will fan out across the ten counties of this region and work one-on-one with every physician office.”

The “health care ambassadors” will be trained by USF and cost $16 million dollars, according to a USF Health spokesperson. The remaining funds would be for public awareness. The funding would go to USF, which then could subcontract with private companies through a bidding process. The ambassadors would train physicians on how to use electronic prescriptions and other electronic health records, but the doctors would be able to choose whichever package works for them.

USF gynecologist Larry Glazerman used an iPhone to file an electronic prescription for a mock patient with the pharmacy located in the building behind him. It was filled within minutes.

USF Health CEO Stephen Klasko says electronic records are better at protecting against drug interactions and can more safely transfer records between doctors.

“An electronic health record will mean that all members of the patient’s health care team will see information at once: your pharmacist, your imaging diagnostician, your family physician, your specialist, all in real time. It’s something that happens today, right now at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care [at USF]. All of it in real time and accessible anywhere: you can have a physician in St. Petersburg and a Physician in Tampa – they’re getting it all at the same time.”

The ePrescribe software used to file the mock prescription is produced by the Chicago-based company Allscripts. It is web-based and does not require a software download or special hardware. Glen Tullman is CEO of Allscripts.

“But the federal government is taking a major step in providing physicians with between $44,000 and $64,000 per physician to encourage the purchase, adoption, and use of electronic health records. And we believe that stimulus - along with innovative programs like you’re seeing launched today - will in fact propel us to this 21st Century, safer, more efficient care system.”

David Schlaifer is president and CEO of Doctors’ Administrative Solutions, a company that provides health care information technology services. In 2007 his company received a three million dollar grant to help Tampa Bay area physicians convert to a system of electronic health records. But Schlaifer says the free software promised from a company that later merged into Allscripts turned out to have hidden charges and to cost doctors money in lost time.

“The software itself was free, but there were a lot of other components – there was embedded third-party software and other components that were required to go with it that were not free.”

Schlaifer thinks the program announced Monday has a better chance to succeed because of PaperFree Tampa Bay’s training component. “I think that would make a huge difference,” he said.

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It drafted the healthcare portion of the federal economic recovery legislation which includes billions for conversion to electronic medical records.

“And the excitement you feel here today is that PaperFree Tampa Bay is the first regional initiative in the United States that will call upon the $19 billion set aside for computerizing medical records and improving e-prescriptions. … So, job creation – the high wage jobs we need in the Tampa Bay area, reducing medical errors, making our physician and medical practice more efficient, and also providing that important foundation for healthcare reform, to make health care more affordable for families and businesses.”

Like other electronic files, electronic medical records and prescriptions could be vulnerable to forgery or hacking. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says there will be safeguards and “seamless transfers of information” so there should be nothing to worry about.

“Look at our finances. You can now, with a handheld device, do your banking. And there’s nothing more sacred to an individually, obviously, than their individual financial wherewithal. So with regard to health care, it’s the same thing. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got some really smart young people who understand systems and computers who work with the professionals who are designing these systems to make sure that there are protections in place.”

USF Health


more information about PaperFree Tampa Bay

National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative - NEPSI

Doctors’ Administrative Solutions

comments powered by Disqus