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Kentucky Hospitals Launching Data-Sharing Tool to Help Combat Prescription, ER Abuse

Hardin Memorial Health

While Kentucky hospitals use electronic health records, that data typically stays in-house, but a new partnership is allowing hospitals to share the information with each other. 

The Kentucky Hospital Association and the Kentucky Office of Rural Health have partnered with the company Collective Medical to develop a statewide care coordination network. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Godfrey at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown says the system gives providers real-time information to identify at-risk and complex patients.

"The purpose of an electronic health record is to try to link all these patients together, but unfortunately, there's no mandate that requires these electronic health records to speak with one another," Godfrey told WKU Public Radio. "Unless you're within a unified health system that's on one singular electronic health record, you're really at a loss."

The case management tool allows medical staff to track which hospitals a patient has visited recently and what prescriptions for controlled substances they’ve obtained, but this system is different from Kentucky's existing prescription monitoring database known as KASPER.  KASPER requires health care providers to search for a patient's prescription history while the Collective Medical program immediately pushes that information to medical staff as soon as the patient is registered at the hospital.

Kentucky was among the top ten states with the highest opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  The commonwealth also saw a 37-fold increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome between 2000 and 2013.

At Highlands Health System in Prestonsburg, about one-fourth of the babies born at the rural hospital in eastern Kentucky have NAS.

"It would be great for our pediatricians to be able to see, if they use this software, that a child was born with NAS because that information may not be given otherwise, and it could be the root cause for many other health issues down the line," said Danielle Harmon, Director of Community Development at Highlands.

Participating hospitals will also use the new data-sharing initiative to track high-utilizers of emergency rooms, which would include patients visiting the ER more than five times in a year.   Dr. Godfrey says until now, doctors had to rely on self-reporting to find out a patient’s history at other hospitals.

"It will allow us to see if patients that might have utilized our emergency department may have been within other emergency departments or other hospitals within a recent period of time," Godfrey told WKU Public Radio. "That way, we can really take better care of those patients. Right now, if they tell us they weren't in another hospital, we have to take them at their word unless we find out otherwise."

The system will also feature security alerts for patients with histories of aggressive behavior. 

Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown and Highlands Regional Hospital in Prestonsburg are among four Kentucky hospitals that recently began using the data-sharing tool.  Harrison Memorial in Cynthiana and St. Claire in Morehead are also participating.  Thirty-four other hospitals are in the process of joining the network.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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