The HITECH Act of 2009 set into motion the goal of achieving electronic connectivity of health records. This connectivity is being fostered through Regional Extension Centers (RECs) that help providers identify and purchase Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) capable of meeting key federal criteria. Importantly, RECs promote adherence to Meaningful Use (MU) regulations that require EMRs to provide interoperability between different members of the healthcare community, a functionality that is central for establishing Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) nationwide. HIEs would provide a continuum of health information that could follow patients from provider to provider. Participants in this exchange of information would include primary care physicians, specialty providers, clinics, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, and personal health records. The development of this connectivity is intended and anticipated to improve health outcomes and control costs. This improvement is based on the belief that only full connectivity with all health information can achieve such goals.
COCHS 2012 Agenda
COCHS, in its role as the nationally recognized promoter of health connectivity between jails and communities, feels it is essential to include jails in the list of locations that need to be connected to HIEs. Local jails process 13 million admissions a year. Jail detainees commonly have high rates of chronic and infectious disease, injuries, psychiatric disorders, and substance abuse. Not including the health data that this sizable population generates would seem to negatively impact the intention of the HITECH Act to improve health and control costs.
In 2012, one of COCHS' major initiatives is to bring together all the stakeholders that would be needed to connect jails to the community. These stakeholders include law enforcement officials, health providers, technological vendors, proprietary health care vendors, and government regulators. By working together, all concerned parties might be able to draw up a roadmap on how best to approach the inclusion of jails within the paradigm of HIEs.