Nevada County hospital garners $700k grant for electronic health records |

Nevada County hospital garners $700k grant for electronic health records

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

Photo submitted to The Union

Dissemination of electronic medical records in Nevada County is poised to become more accessible to area health-care providers thanks to a nearly $700,000 grant awarded to the fundraising arm of Grass Valley's hospital.

As part of UnitedHealthcare's $5.2 million in grants to nine health care organizations, the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation was presented a ceremonious check for $699,500 at a Tuesday evening announcement.

"We're trying to get rid of paper, and this will be a huge step," said Mark Freitas, director of information services for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

The funds will go to expand the hospital's community-wide collaboration on an Electronic Health Record system, designed to improve patient care, reduce costs and medication errors and increase efficiency. The system went live in 2010, two years ahead of the federal mandates associated with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"When a patient goes in to see a doctor now, their entire record is not in a folder. It is in a secure environment online," Freitas told The Union. "It translates into better care."

It isn't just the hospital that is standardizing its electronic patient records. Eighty-eight area providers are already on board using the eClinical Works program. Previous grants to the hospital have enabled the hospital to fund up to 85 percent of those providers' licensing costs.

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"The financial barrier for any provider to get in EHR world can be as high as $60,000," Freitas said.

Unified patient information alerts doctors of exam results, allergies, conflicting medications, lab results and quicker access to other pertinent patient information, Freitas said.

"It goes on and on in terms of the benefits," he said.

The added nearly $700,000, which is more than half the foundation's 2011 revenues, will allow the hospital to continue to expand an expected 80 other providers, Freitas said.

The funding is in addition to a $334,268 grant the organization received from UnitedHealthcare in 2008 that helped the hospital start its health information technology program.

"Our emphasis will be to expand EHR implementation into rural environment. That's our mission," he said.

The hospital foundation agrees. "This grant from UnitedHealthcare supports our investment in new technologies that is helping us serve rural community clinics throughout the region," said Kimberly Parker, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, in a statement.

"These funds are helping expand our eClinical Works program that enables us to deliver health care services to more people in our community, particularly people living in rural areas," she said.

Plumas District Hospital is the only other Northern California health care facility to garner monies from UnitedHealthcare, which awarded the organization $107,000.

Plumas is expected to use its funds to expand educational and outreach services for women diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the region.

Plumas County has seen a significant increase in perinatal risk factors in the last eight years, the highest percentage of which are related to diabetes — either a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis prior to pregnancy or development of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. 

In 2011, 24 percent of Plumas District Hospital's obstetric patients were diagnosed with gestational diabetes and required referral or consultation.

UnitedHealthcare's latest grant enables Plumas District Hospital to provide comprehensive services to the gestational diabetic population through a local diabetes education program.

The funding is in addition to a $326,357 the organization received from UnitedHealthcare in 2008 to upgrade its telemedicine capabilities.

"This is a great investment by UnitedHealthcare in helping hospitals and clinics that serve rural populations in our state have vital resources for improving the care they provide local patients," said Nate Beason, Nevada County supervisor.

"We applaud your commitment and investment in these communities."

Since 2008, UnitedHealth-care has provided more than $30 million in grants to 53 nonprofits statewide. Thirteen of them are in Northern California, receiving $4.7 million.

In addition to these grants, UnitedHealthcare's California Health Care Investment Program has provided $269 million in total investments to 46 health care organizations throughout the state to help underserved, low-income and underinsured communities and populations.

This includes $20 million ($3.1 million to Plumas County hospitals) in financing to help Critical Access Hospitals in rural communities throughout California improve health information technology systems, including the adoption of electronic health records.

"I just can't speak more highly of the grantor and the lifelines they have provided," Freitas said. "My hat's off to them."

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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