Empowering Patients: Rome Project Joins 38 U.S. Organizations Making Commitments to Health Information Improvement

Representatives of a groundbreaking community health information demonstration project based in Rome, Ga., traveled to Washington, D.C. on September 12th to pledge their commitment to a national effort aimed at better engaging consumers in health care through the use of health information technology.

The goal for the project, which is being managed by Georgia Tech health care specialists, is to improve patient health and outcomes.  The Rome consumer-mediated health information exchange (CMHIE) project aims to put personal health information into the hands of patients — beginning with those who have cancer — so they can better manage their own health.

Representing the project at the Washington ceremony were Angie McWhorter, chief information officer of the Harbin Clinic in Rome, and Alan Wills, associate director of health at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. The group was among 39 organizations participating in the Consumer Health IT Summit, which was sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Rome project will add modern communications technology to the relationship among patients, doctors and hospitals. It will provide the tools to give patients access to their health information and enable secure two-way communication between providers and patients for outcomes reporting, subsequent treatment and other information.  The new CMHIE will allow individual health data to be sent to a patient’s personal health record (PHR), and patients will also be able to decide who will have access to their information.

The ONC has provided approximately $1.7 million in funding for the Rome demonstration project, which involves Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center.  The project is being administered through the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“Cancer is a complex disease that involves care from multiple providers,” explained Wills. “We believe that putting the patient into the equation is extremely beneficial to addressing the challenge of coordinating cancer care.”

The first component of the Rome initiative will focus on breast cancer patients.  Services for patients with other types of cancer will become available later, and the system could ultimately be made available more broadly to help all persons in the Rome community manage their health.

“The better informed that patients are about their health and the more involved they are in their care, the better the outcomes generally are,” McWhorter said.  “Our goals are to help patients have better access to their personal health information and to enhance communication with health care providers by building on the technology already established in our community.”

Organizations providing health care to Rome patients who have cancer are working together to implement the new project, which could show other communities around the country how to improve community health while delivering services more effectively.

“Floyd Medical Center, Harbin Clinic and Redmond Regional Medical Center have been collaborating on information technology initiatives for many years now for the benefit of our patients in an indirect way,” noted Brian Barnette, chief information officer of Floyd Medical Center. “The three entities collaborating on extending access to personal health information directly to the patient is a natural evolution of our efforts. The healthcare industry is going through a major technological shift right now, but we can’t lose sight of the real goal. Our three organizations compete on many levels, but we all have the same goal in mind – to improve the health and care of our patients.”

By facilitating the use of technology, organizers of the project expect it to give patients a better overall experience.

“The challenge grant is just another avenue that the health care community in the Rome area has taken to improve patient care,” said Brad Treglown, director of Information technology and services at HCA Healthcare, which operates Redmond Regional Medical Center.  “By facilitating the use of technology, the grant allows patients to be involved at every level of their care.  It will help to improve patient outcomes as well as the entire health care experience.”

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia  30308 USA

Media Relations Assistance: John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon