Health information technology can help reduce medical mistakes and ultimately can lead to more effective, efficient care. To help hospitals in North Carolina and South Carolina increase efficiency, coordinate care and reduce medical errors, The Duke Endowment has awarded 110 grants totaling $32.1 million for information technology and regional health information networks.
Patient safety grew as a national concern in 1999 after the Institute of Medicine released its report "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System." The landmark publication estimated that as many as 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented.
Health information technology can help reduce medical mistakes by providing comprehensive, real-time patient data at the point of care. It can also help hospitals reduce costs, work more efficiently and become more effective.
Not-for-profit hospitals, however, face a variety of financial pressures that often leaves little room for investing in new technology. The cost of strategic planning can be a barrier, too.
Beginning in 2001, The Duke Endowment funded several projects to support hospitals through new health information technology, such as bar coding systems, physician order entry systems and electronic medical records.
Program highlights include:
- Early 2000: The Endowment awarded several grants to help hospitals buy new technology, such as hospital medication administration systems, tele-radiology networks and voice recognition software. The Endowment also launched a series of meetings with health care leaders in the Carolinas to see how new technology might impact the quality of health care.
- 2003 and 2004: Trustees approved a growing number of responsive requests for help with health information technology. Eleven grants totaling $2.3 million were approved in 2003 and 22 grants totaling nearly $4 million were approved in 2004.
- 2005: Health information technology evolved into a priority funding area. Staff worked with consultants from Computer Sciences Corporation to assess the needs of all not-for-profit hospitals in North Carolina and South Carolina. Based on the results, the Endowment distributed a request for proposals later that year.
- 2006: Trustees approved funding for 27 projects totaling $7.1 million. Eight hospitals, for example, received grants for picture archiving and communication systems. The new technology gave them constant access to a radiologist and decreased turnaround time for interpreting diagnostic studies. It also decreased the cost of film production, storage and transportation, and allowed for more consulting with specialists at regional referral centers. Also in 2006, Trustees approved $1 million to help create WNC Health Network, which allowed 16 hospitals in western North Carolina to share patient information.
- 2007: Trustees approved $3 million to develop a regionalized health information network for eastern North Carolina through University Health Systems in Greenville, N.C.
- 2008: Trustees approved $2.4 million to create another regional network for six hospitals near Charleston, S.C. When it launched in 2009, the Charleston Area E-Health Alliance electronically linked six emergency departments and allowed physicians to access patient medical records, medications, lab results, diagnostic studies and physician and nursing notes.
View a list of participating sites.