BLOUNTVILLE - Nearly 30,000 Eastman Chemical Co. employees, retirees and dependents April 1 will be the first to become part of CareSpark.
The groundbreaking regional health information organization (RHIO) is to serve Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
"It's a library that is right in my office with me for every patient," Dr. Jerry Miller, founder and head of Holston Medical Group, said of CareSpark. Miller, a board member, predicted CareSpark and other RHIOs will prevent U.S. health care from "imploding" into chaos or socialized medicine in the next five to seven years.
Liesa Jenkins, executive director of CareSpark, said the program will become fully electronic this summer and is soliciting more employer participation now. She also travels the country speaking at conferences about CareSpark.
"This is not the Tri-Cities. They (in health care circles) call it the CareSpark region," Jenkins said.
For the time being, about 28,000 insured through Kingsport-based Eastman Chemical can take advantage of the decision support, which will provide suggested or possible options for treatment, but not on an electronic basis.
Come this summer, however, the program for a 17-county area with about 710,000 people, 12,000 doctors and two major hospital systems will provide real-time, online information to physicians about a patient's medical history, current medications, recommended medication changes, and potential interactions or alternative treatments.
The information will be cross-referenced with the latest medical discoveries and developments.
The cost is $1.50 to $2 per covered person, depending on the services provided, Jenkins said.
However, Jenkins said that in exchange the program will, among other things, prevent duplication of already performed tests as well as flag potential drug interactions.
In addition, she and Miller said it should cut the cost of billing and collections for health insurance, which they said runs about 30 percent to 40 percent of total health care costs.
CareSpark has received local business support financially and monetary and in-kind contributions from technology businesses local and national, as well as state and federal funding. In three years, its budget is projected to be more than $7 million a year.
Jenkins said Eastman has factored in CareSpark to its negotiations with health insurance officials, something she said businesses across the region can do.
Aside from medicine, Jenkins said CareSpark is an economic development tool that should drive down the cost of health care in the region, which runs about $9,300 per person versus the national average of $6,800. She said that will free up more money to go into preventative care.
However, based on national statistics, Jenkins said about 2 percent of the population may opt out of the electronic medical records. But she and Miller said employers can require the offline decision support if they are paying part of the health insurance bill.
She and Miller said the system will secure medical records from unauthorized access, possibly more so than existing record systems that are a hodgepodge of often unconnected electronic and some paper records, although HMG is already into paperless medical records.
For more information go to www.carespark.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.