A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

E-Health Success Story in Wisconsin

E-Health Success Story in Wisconsin

December 31, 2008

With a national focus on e-health as a piece of the national health reform puzzle, and President-elect Obama looking to spend $50 billion on the adoption of e-health technology, the New York Times Business section featured an article this past Saturday about the use of e-health at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, a large doctors' group with 790 doctors seeing more than 365,000 patients per year at 43 locations.

The article discussed the potential for the technology to increase the use of evidence-based medicine and to help patients manage chronic diseases. It also pointed out how e-health can reduce medical errors. The Marshfield Clinic system warns doctors, when they electronically prescribe medicines, of possible allergic reactions and dangerous interactions with other drugs the patient is taking. A survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 71% of doctors using e-health records with a feature that included such warnings said they had been alerted of medication errors. As the article states, most of the medical groups across the country that have adopted e-health are large and are often insurers as well as providers, while 3/4 of physicians' practices in the country have 10 or fewer doctors and would need financial assistance to successfully implement the technology.

The article did not talk about the steps taken at Marshfield Clinic to educate the patients about electronic health records and their policies regarding privacy protections and notification of security breaches. It is also not clear if Marshfield includes a patient portal in its system, allowing patients to play a role in their care via their health record. Both the privacy protections and the patient portals are pieces of e-health that, from the consumer perspective, are important and should be part of the discussion as e-health moves ahead in Massachusetts and nationally.
Deborah Wachenheim