Electronic Health Records and other emerging technologies funding policy

Effective June 1, 2006, and until further notice, the Rasmuson Foundation adopted the following policy:

The Foundation supports nonprofit technology projects because it recognizes technology, regardless of industry, as a business imperative. The health care industry is in the early stages of implementing important advances in domain specific technology such as electronic health records (EHR), practice management applications, wireless networks, telehealth networks, and other technologies that enable specific functions such as formulary and labs. The result is integrated electronic patient data potentially made accessible to any actor involved in the delivery and administration of health care at the facility, the network or the national levels. Health care organizations must work through this sea change within the context of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which stipulates national standards for the privacy and security of individual health information.

While standards exist around data privacy and security, they do not yet exist for medical data in general. There are federal attempts to begin the data standardization process, primarily through Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIO) which will improve patient care by enabling an interconnected electronic health information network capable of linking patient data across hospitals and databases. By transforming how healthcare data is delivered, RHIOs should improve patient safety while reducing medical errors and healthcare costs.

Due to the lack of standards, dozens of companies building supporting emerging technology (e.g., EHRs) are battling in the marketplace to have their technology adopted and declared the de facto industry standard. At some point in the future (timeline dependent upon adoption of standards), standards will be finalized and there will be an abrupt rationalization of the technology provider community. Many of these technology providers will exit the business. Therefore, it is possible that all Foundation awards (investments) made before this time could be lost or seriously compromised.

Until standardization for medical data in general occurs, the Rasmuson Foundation will:

    1. Make its primary investments in standard setting organizations such as supporting the formation of an Alaska RHIO in order to help expedite the outcome of the important standard setting process;
    2. Continue to encourage nonprofit health care providers to develop and implement best in class technology governance and operations capabilities while assisting them with awards to implement technology infrastructure capable of supporting technologies like EHRs once the market rationalization has occurred; and
    3. Delay funding emerging health care technologies and technology solutions until standards and best practices emerge, are formalized, and are adopted by Alaskan health and social service organizations.