Law signed to boost electronic medical records use
Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller, left with bill, and Rep. Susan Donovan, right with bill, with Gov. Daniel McKee, seated, after he signed the bill. The were joined by advocates for the bill, as well as Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, second from left; House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, to the left of Representative Donavan; and House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, to the right behind her.
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan and Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller was ceremonially signed into law yesterday to better protect patients’ health by making the electronic sharing of health records more effective.
The legislation (2021-H 6210A, 2021-S 0495A) makes the state’s health information exchange, known as CurrentCare, an “opt-out” system rather than one that requires every patient to take action in order to participate.
Until now, Rhode Islanders have had to opt in to CurrentCare to have their medical records made available electronically and accessible by all their health care providers, and only about half of Rhode Islanders have done so.
“Electronic medical records are an important resource that protects patients — allowing their doctors to know what medications they’ve been on, any conditions they have or have had that could influence the care they currently need, and even the results from tests that may have been ordered by another provider. When a person comes in to the emergency room unconscious and there’s no electronic record available, the medical staff treating that person lacks critical information they need to help them and keep them safe,” said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth). “This bill still provides people an easy way to decline if they choose, but makes it easier to join than it has been. It’s better for public health and safety to make participation the default, rather than nonparticipation.”
Said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “In 2021, electronic medical records should be the standard. There are so many advantages to having your records about current treatments and your medical history available to any provider who is treating you. It can prevent prescription interactions, provide critical information in an emergency and provide for more efficient, effective and less expensive care.”
Rhode Island now joins 36 other states that use an opt-out model for their state-sanctioned electronic medical records sharing systems.
The change was supported by a wide swath of Rhode Island’s medical community. Among the organizations that supported the bill are the Hospital Association of Rhode Island; Rhode Island’s chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians; Rhode Island Primary Care Physicians Corporation, which represents 180 primary care providers in the state; the Care Transformation Collaborative of Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Parent Information Network; and the Rhode Island Quality Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the quality, safety, and value of healthcare in Rhode Island, which helped establish and now administers CurrentCare in Rhode Island.
Among the advantages of participation in the health information exchange are the availability of medical records in emergencies, the ability of prescribers to check medications prescribed by others to protect against dangerous interactions, the swift availability of test results to all providers involved in a patient’s care, and the ability to look back at patient’s medical history without the patient or provider having to make requests to other offices for information.
The legislation was cosponsored in the House by House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence). Senate sponsors include Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown), Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).