AURORA, Colo. --
The Colorado Regional Health Information Organization is up and running, combining medical records at three separate hospitals.
The idea is to speed diagnosis and treatment.
"We ask the patient every time when they come in for treatment, is it all right that I access this system on your behalf to find information about you?" said C.T. Lin, Emergency Room doctor at the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora.
Lin's been using the electronic database for one week, instead of paper charts.
"It's clear that medicine is one of the last organizations to be brought into the information age, and now we can do that pretty much instantly," Lin said.
Most E.R. doctors start from scratch when a patient rolls in for help.
If that patient can't speak, it can be a difficult, time consuming process that can involve phone calls, even faxed medical records, before treatment is offered.
"We are about to change that by providing the kind of information that you expect when you bank and when you do other kinds of things across multiple organizations," said Dr. Donna Lynne, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado and COHRIO Board chairwoman.
For four years, and thanks to a $5 million federal grant, Lynne has been using the K.P. computerized medical records system as a model for one that offers true interoperability between organizations: Denver Health Medical Center, Children's Hospital, CU Hospital, and K.P.
So far, 1.4 million Coloradans could use the system, if they choose to.
"We have put some funding into it, to really kick start (it). Now it's going. We'll see what the kind of successes are, and then, I think, at the federal level we may see some federal assistance as well. Because this puts us a little bit further ahead of other states in terms of experimenting with it," said Gov. Bill Ritter.
Colorado also kicked in $1 million.
Participants cite national studies showing 98,000 Americans die every year from medical errors.
Unnecessary costs are believed to account for 30 percent of all health care costs.
Now, patients won't have to remember the last time they had a tetanus shot or a CAT scan.
Eventually, participants hope the COHRIO system can be used to upload information from primary care physicians as well.
It's a program that Ritter spoke with President-elect Barack Obama about a few days ago.
"I would say the Obama administration is interested in this and I think funding is the impediment," Ritter said.