Mason Spearheads Effort to Improve Area Health Care

Posted: June 13, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

Over the spring and continuing this summer, George Mason University’s Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics is serving as the lead organizer in examining the need and options for a regional health information organization (RHIO) for consumer health care information.

The Mason RHIO planning workgroup was created at the request of President Alan Merten, with a goal of using information technology to bring improved patient education and innovations in health service efficiencies and quality to a network of health care providers in Northern Virginia.

“We envision a full-blown regional health information exchange, with Northern Virginia leading the charge,” says Jane Woods, Mason’s liaison for state health policy and community development.

“The hope is that in the future all regions in the state will be interconnected and collaborating to improve health care service access and quality. This will benefit not only the consumer, who has access to better care, but also the health care providers, who may realize greater efficiencies.”

Those involved in the RHIO planning effort are interested in improving health care service and planning efficiencies, expanding communications and streamlining administrative processes. The RHIO would benefit patients, health care providers, health care insurers and others by reducing errors, decreasing communication duplication and increasing the accuracy and speed of prescription ordering.

Among the most interesting prospects of the RHIO is the potential to create centralized individual medical records, providing consumers with the ability to control and access their own health care records.

For example, potential RHIO capabilities could include enabling all prescriptions to be handled electronically; providing consumers with digital access to their individual health care records; and allowing consumer-selected doctors and service providers to access these health care records electronically, regardless of location.

Mason organizers for these efforts form a multidisciplinary team: Jean Pierre Auffret of the School of Management; Goodlet McDaniels of the College of Health and Human Services; and P.J. Maddox, Mark Meiners and Jane Woods of the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics.

In addition to Mason faculty, the RHIO planning group comprises area experts, including physicians, patient groups, health associations and information technologists. Their planning efforts are showcased in monthly meetings open to the public and will culminate in a summit this fall. Regular updates are provided on the planning initiative’s web site.

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