Promoting a conduit of cooperation for EMR implementation

By Bridget Garland, East Tennessee Medical News

No one can deny the immense advantages of electronic medical records (EMR) for both patient care and practice management; however, the dynamics of implementing such a system are so numerous and complex that less than 20 percent of physicians use EMR. OnePartner, an off-shoot company of the Holston Medical Group (HMG) in Kingsport, TN, hopes to alleviate some of the anxiety that accompanies the execution and management of EMR.

OnePartner is the culminating venture of 12 years of HMG's experience with EMR, healthcare infrastructure and joint business-technology projects with other healthcare providers and businesses. The corporation, whose investors include physicians and executives from HMG, plans to open a high-availability data center in Duffield, Virginia, this June. The Advanced Technology and Applications Center (ATAC) will provide housing for healthcare data and will offer disaster recovery and business continuance services for all regional businesses.

As its motto "Do something together" reflects, OnePartner's director, Tom Deaderick, hopes that the company's services will help to build a "conduit of cooperation" among the healthcare providers in the region.

"One thing that is needed for this venture to succeed is regional cooperation. No matter what is going on outside the data center, within the ATAC, we all work together."

What this translates into is the best possible care for patients in the region: With the guarantee of stable EMR, patient care is never compromised.

While a backup center is not a new concept, the unique services that OnePartner can provide for the region is a concept like no other in the country. Julian Kudritzki, certification manager of the Uptime Institute, noted that OnePartner's ATAC "is currently the sole US company providing outsourced commercial data services...that has been awarded a Tier III Design Certification" by the institute, a provider of educational and consulting services for facilities and information technology organizations.

The ATAC is uniquely designed and positioned to provide optimal services for colocation and disaster recovery. Basically, the facility houses the primary computing equipment within the best possible environment.

"Practices spend so much time and money investing in EMR and then they house their equipment in a tiny closet," said Deaderick. "If the air conditioning unit goes out or there's a power outage, they crash. The ATAC protects the investment and would prevent this from ever happening."

Additionally, a backup center ideally is located 20 miles from the primary site but within a 60-mile radius for business continuance. For southeast Virginia and northeast Tennessee businesses, this means never having to worry about major disruptions in service.

"EMR has a natural limit - you can only trust it so much. Two times last month I heard practice managers say 'the server unit crashed,'" recalled Deaderick. "With our ATAC, this problem does not have to occur."

The ATAC's command center will be staffed 24 hours/7 days a week. Network specialists monitor the servers and equipment in the data center and provide on-site support for ATAC clients.

In addition to the ATAC, OnePartner encourages participation in its research services. As Deaderick pointed out, many physicians are concerned about the cost of EMR implementation.

"I often hear 'How do we pay for these systems?'" said Deaderick, "and the answer lies in the ability to provide pharmaceutical companies hard and fast numbers regarding clinical research. EMR provides physicians with the ability to do so."

Clinical research generates revenue because pharmaceutical companies spend $514,000 a day during the development of a new drug. Whenever they are provided with data that can cut down on the number of days it takes to get FDA approval, they are willing to pay, explained Deaderick. And the Southeast Virginia/Northeast Tennessee region happens to be a prime area for research because of the consistently high ranking of chronic diseases, including diabetes (44th), cardiovascular deaths (48th), premature mortality (47th) and smoking prevalence (47th).

OnePartner Research analysts perform complex queries on the patient data the physicians supply. All patient interaction occurs between patient and physician, without interference from OnePartner.

Ultimately, OnePartner hopes to bring the medical community together in an effort to improve healthcare quality and to reduce cost of care by providing these valuable services to the region. "Since I've been working for OnePartner and with HMG, I've come to realize that it is an organization to be trusted. They possess a good balance of business knowledge with decisions made from the heart," said Deaderick.