The Rio Arriba Family Care Network will create TeleHealth, a virtual patient record system that will enable health care providers to exchange electronic medical records in rural New Mexico. The goal of the Family Care Network is to create a coordinated, multi-site, decentralized regional health care system to better serve the predominately medically indigent patients of rural Rio Arriba County. The use of electronic medical records has been recognized as a key step in improving the quality of health care, reducing medical errors, and lessening the number of costly non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms. The project will support providers' conversion to the use of electronic medical records, facilitate the secure exchange of patient information across dissimilar platforms, and provide connectivity among the project partners through a high-speed, web-based network.
The residents of Rio Arriba County experience some of the highest rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, alcohol and drug abuse, and other health problems in the nation. For the most part, they do not have a medical "home," but rather receive health care from multiple providers who serve medically indigent patients. This TeleHealth project — in an isolated, mountainous region populated by traditional Hispanic villages and American Indian Pueblos, with a telecommunications infrastructure that is at best primitive — is pointing toward the future of health care. No longer is service provided at a central facility; rather, the critical point of access to health care is migrating to community-based sites. The need for electronic medical records is recognized as necessary to eliminate inappropriate use of health care resources, unnecessary duplication of services, and to ensure comprehensive care. The Rio Arriba County Family Care Network's TeleHealth project will serve as a model as the nation moves toward the use of electronic medical records exchange among health care providers.
The partners will be the physicians and other health care providers at six in-county clinics of Health Centers of Northern New Mexico; the three clinic sites of Las Clinicas del Norte; and St.Vincent's Hospital in Santa Fe. They will work in partnership with staff and steering committee members from the ArribaCare Project of the Rio Arriba Family Care Network, a community-based coalition of health and human service providers in Rio Arriba County. Also involved are the Advanced Computing Lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory, VirTx Collaborative Medical Networks, and the Shared Solutions Project of the Health Sciences Center and Medical School at the University of New Mexico.