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Echo Press Editorial: New e-health data shows system is improving care

The massive technological glitches that marred the launch of the MNsure website left many people disillusioned about the role of computers in health care.

But there are many shining examples of how the electronic age has made health care much more efficient and less prone to errors. Like it or not, technology is shaping the course of health care in ways no one could have imagined a generation ago and it will continue to do so.

Minnesota has seen an “e-health transformation” during the last 10 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. It points out that consumers have gained unprecedented access to their health information, and most Minnesota hospitals and clinics have moved from paper to electronic health records.

Today, 93 percent of Minnesota’s clinics and 99 percent of Minnesota’s hospitals have adopted electronic health records systems that make health information readily available to both providers and patients. Before 2004, fewer than 9 percent of Minnesota hospitals and 17 percent of clinics had electronic health records. State health leaders released the most recent e-health data Wednesday as part of the annual Minnesota e-Halth Summit June 11-12.

According to Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, these e-health advances are the result of a decade of work by thousands of Minnesotans in government, businesses, nonprofits, and health care settings such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and public health.

“Minnesota has made great strides in health information technology to improve patient experience, health care quality, patient safety, and public health,” said Ehlinger. “We must continue to support Minnesota’s e-Health Initiative to achieve the next step of e-health, which is the creation of policies and processes that not only impact individual health but also improve the health of all Minnesotans and their communities.”

Minnesota’s e-health achievements include:

• Consumer access to health information and online guidance has risen significantly since 2004.

• 72 percent of clinics in the state now offer an online patient portal with access to personal health information, making monitoring of health easier.

• 76 percent of clinics use automated tools to identify needed preventive care services; 70 percent use automated reminders for missing labs and tests; and 95 percent of clinics use medication guides and alerts.

• 92 percent of clinics report that electronic health records alert them to potential medication errors, and 96 percent report that the electronic health records enhance patient care.

As health leaders point out, this is not the time to rest on those accomplishments. There is still much work to be done. Minnesota needs to ensure more providers, in addition to clinics and hospitals, adopt and use electronic health records. It also needs to ensure these providers can effectively and securely use and share electronic health information to better serve their patients and their communities.

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