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More Doctors And Hospitals Are Moving To Electronic Records
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Mississippi has been making the move to electronic health records at an increasing pace. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, in just the past four years, the percentage of physicians using these systems has doubled.

“So then you select yes …” Kristy Winder, chief of clinical support services for Coastal Family Health Center, demonstrates how their electronic records system works. "And then after that, you click here, and select the template..."

Angel Greer, the community health center’s chief executive, says the move to electronic records here came after all of the center’s paper records were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.

“We had our patients who moved out of the area or the ones who stayed - there was no record of what kind of medications they were on, what were their chronic conditions, what were their latest lab results. We had none of that," she says. 

Determined to make sure this never happened again - and helped by grants and other funding - the center made the move to electronic records and is now, Greer says, virtually paperless.

More recently, the move to electronic records throughout the state - and nation - has largely been propelled by incentives – soon to become penalties - from the federal government.

"From a national standpoint, the big movement is to coordinate care between all your providers, so all of your providers know exactly what is going on with you as an individual patient," says Jeremy Hill, acting executive director of the Mississippi Health Information Network.

He adds that, in addition to being useful in disasters, electronic records can help patients who are away from home and need their records shared quickly.

“How we serve information is exactly how it was done in the past; however, in the past it was done by fax machines and things of that nature," he says. "We’re making it electronic, which is easier to use and more secure than a fax machine.”

Hill says access to patient information is limited to protect confidentiality, among many other steps taken to ensure the data is secure. 

From 2011 to 2013, the percentage of office-based physicians in Mississippi who use electronic health records doubled, from 20% to 40%, according to a state report by Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That compares to a national rate that year of 48%.

The the percentage of Mississippi acute care hospitals using these systems has more than tripled - from 17% in 2011, to 56% by 2013; that compared to 59% nationally. 

Hill says the current hospital numbers are likely even higher since he has not come across a hospital lately that doesn't have at least a basic electronic health records system.