Wired Wisconsin: Broadband growth needed to meet electronic medical records goals

Contact: Thad Nation


Wisconsin plan aims for electronic records access for all providers and consumers by 2020

MILWAUKEE — In order to reach the State of Wisconsin’s goal of expanded use of electronic health records by health care providers across the state, the availability of high-speed, broadband Internet access must increase significantly, Wired Wisconsin said on Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Relay for Electronic Data for Health (WIRED for Health) submitted a plan to the federal Department of Health and Human Services last week to secure stimulus funding designed to promote information sharing amongst health care providers in the state.

Under the WIRED for Health plan, all hospitals and ambulatory care facilities will have access to and use nationally-certified electronic health records by 2016, and all health care providers, agencies, and consumers will have access these records – and most will use them – by 2020.

“Advancing the use of electronic health records is a vital step towards increasing the quality of health care for all Wisconsin residents,” said Thad Nation, Executive Director of Wired Wisconsin. “But in order to truly take advantage of an e-records system, we have to first ensure that high-speed Internet is available to hospitals and health care providers statewide.”

The Madison, Middleton, and Monona areas received a total of $8.8 million in March to develop nearly 100 miles of broadband infrastructure and expand access to high-speed Internet for local households and businesses, as well as area hospitals. In addition, the state has received $23 million in federal funding to build infrastructure that would provide broadband access to 467 public facilities in all 72 counties – infrastructure that also eases the cost of future broadband expansion in those areas.

However, modernized telecommunications rules (SB 469/AB 696) that would have encouraged the development of technological infrastructure, including broadband, failed to pass in the Wisconsin State Legislature during the last session.

“Our state is making progress in laying the groundwork for greater access to high-speed Internet, but the State Legislature must pass modernized telecom rules if we are to truly take advantage of the possibilities for growth,” Nation said. “Electronic medical records can reduce health care costs for consumers and increase the quality of care, but unless all facilities have access to broadband, our state won’t be able to fully capitalize on the benefits of this technology.”

A complete copy of the WIRED for Health plan is available at http://wiredboard.wisconsin.gov/sop20100825.pdf.