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PaperFree Florida: USF Health Helping EMR with Local Physicians

Thanks to a $6 million grant in federal stimulus funds, USF Health will now be able to help doctors in 20 counties around the state of Florida make the switch to electronic medical records (EMR).

U.S. representative Kathy Castor, a democrat from Tampa who helped secure the grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, understands the role the university has played over the last few decades. “The University of South Florida is the leader in healthcare and technology in the state of Florida and now is one of just a handful of universities across the entire country that is providing this leadership role.”

USF President Judy Genshaft pointed out that the new program will not only improve the delivery of health care to the region’s population – it will also assist the Tampa Bay area’s economy. “We are one of the first regional initiatives in the nation to invest recovery dollars in a whole new professional work force combining health and information technology.”

The new project named “Paper-Free Florida” will help doctors transform how they deliver care to patients. Dr. Stephen Klasko, former CEO of USF Health, points out that PaperFree is not only about a more efficient healthcare system, but also about the creation of new jobs in the area.

“The revolution is starting here in Tampa Bay,” Dr. Klasko said. “That revolution is about transformation and job creation. Transforming health care into a non-paper, decision-supported way of doing business […] We’re not writing things down on pieces of paper and hoping that people get it right. It’s about quality and safety and it’s about job creation.”

The program will use the federal grant money to hire and train what are being called “e-ambassadors.” These digital ambassadors will visit doctors’ offices in 20 counties and help facilitate the adoption of electronic health records by the staff.

Although the use of EMR has been shown to improve patient safety and data management through technology, many doctors across the country have been slow to adopt the practice. This is mainly due to the fact they find selecting and learning the new systems difficult. USF’s “e-ambassadors” will take the confusion out of the equation and make the transition as seamless and painless as possible.

Dr. Hugo Navarte, assistant professor of medicine at USF Health, is an advocate of using electronic health records. “I can make much more informed decisions and provide better quality of care,” said Dr. Navarte, who started using electronic records a few years ago.

EMR is not just a technological fad, but a permanent way of making medicine safer. EMR can prevent mistakes from occurring, as when pharmacists misread names and dosages on handwritten prescriptions. Electronic records are also able to stop a doctor from prescribing penicillin to a patient with a penicillin allergy. In the past, that same patient may have received that prescription which could have greatly jeopardized their health.

The PaperFree project also has possible applications for public health studies. USF will visit doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics and will install the technology, but will also work with staff to understand how the data collected can be used to improve the health of entire communities.

USF Health has a long history of innovative programs designed to evolve patient safety information. In fact, in 2003 it was designated as a national center for patient safety, research and education by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. With its recent Paper Free program, USF Health has proven once again its commitment to improving health care and the lives of Florida’s residents.

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