LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Department of Health could face federal fines next fiscal year if its electronic medical record system is not upgraded, according to officials.
At the regular Board of Health meeting on Monday, Health Director David Jenkins told the board that the department’s current digital patient record system, Health Information System, is not federally certified. The system, which has been provided by the state free of cost, may be certified next year but will come with a fee of about $20,000 annually.
“In the coming years there will be penalties in the form of lower reimbursement percentages from Medicaid if a certified system is not in place,” Jenkins said. “A lot of counties are evaluating other options at this time.”
In addition, Jenkins said that the current system has been highlighted as an area in need of improvement by health department staff as well as other health departments in the state, about half of which currently use the state system.
“The consensus that I’m hearing from most health directors across the state is that HIS is just not a good program,” Jenkins said. “It has slow load times, frequent down times, and sometimes takes years to get updated versions of the program. If we’re going to pay for a system, it may be in our best interests to put the money toward a much more efficient and user-friendly program.”
Jenkins said that the cost of a new system can range from $30,000 to $100,000 up front plus ongoing yearly maintenance and update costs.
“This is a difficult topic for all medical care everywhere — nobody’s figured this out,” said Kelvin Raybon, the board’s physician member. “Don’t think that there’s a clear answer; there’s actually not. It sounds like you probably have a clunky, Soviet-era program that you’re trying to work with from the government that’s been pieced together for the last 20 years and probably works very poorly.”
Jenkins also reported on a meeting of health department and Scotland Memorial Hospital staff members last month to discuss the ability of county health providers to ensure quality prenatal care to low-income county residents.
“The hospital would like to collaborate with us in order to find ways to lessen the financial burden of prenatal care,” he said. “Some ideas thrown out were the hospital setting up a clinic at the department of health and the hospital providing room at their facility for some of our staff. We’re also looking at the health department taking over the diabetic education provided by the hospital.”
In other business, the board approved decreases in state block grant funding to its family planning and maternal health departments. Family planning grant funding decreased from $79,309 to $76,303 and maternal health grants decreased from $32,320 to $29,794. The cuts mirror reductions in funding to all health departments statewide.