Sunday, August 9, 2009

Helping Children in Texas

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) newsletter “In Touch” describes how health information technology is coordinating care for Texans enrolled in Medicaid. A major move was started this year when HHSC rolled out STAR Health to manage healthcare for children in foster care and that included a first-of-its-kind network called Health Passport. The network is able to provide secure web-based electronic health records for the 30,000 children in the Texas foster care system.

The Health Passport is not a complete clinical record of a child’s previous and current healthcare services, but it gives caseworkers, foster parents, and medical providers an easily accessible record with high-level medical and administrative information to help healthcare professionals coordinate care.

Building on the success of the Health Passport and STAR Health, HHSC is expanding the use of electronic health records to provide electronic health records to all enrolled in Medicaid and to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Currently, the Texas legislature via House Bill 1218, has called on HHSC to establish an EHR Exchange System and to set up a pilot project to test sharing secure electronic health information with hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers through local or regional health exchanges.

To develop the project, HHSC is now in the process of soliciting nominations for the Electronic Health Information Exchange System Advisory Committee which will have 12 to 16 members participating. The application deadline to be on the committee is August 14, 2009.

According to the Texas Tech newsletter, “Rural and Community Health Messenger”, $6.7 million in telemedicine grant funding was awarded to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to go to the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health.

The funding for over 26 months will be used to expand and study access to pediatric primary and specialty care for Medicaid patients enrolled at 30 patient sites in rural communities throughout West Texas. The project is called “Children’s Healthcare Access for Rural Texas” (CHART). At this time, members from the four Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Schools of Medicine campuses are assessing the needs of the communities in the region to determine the most effective locations to establish the 30 sites.

Many rural and underserved West Texas communities face significant challenges when seeking pediatric healthcare services. A severe shortage of general pediatricians and pediatric specialists exists in rural and underserved communities and requires lengthy travel to locations where healthcare specialists are available.

In addition, a new TELEDOC ™ design will be launched with the CHART project. Texas Tech’s Department of Telemedicine developed their newly designed TELEDOC and previewed it at the 2009 ATA Conference in Las Vegas in May where it received positive reviews from physicians. They particularly liked the tabletop work space and the easy access to the electronic diagnostics tools.