San Diego Business Journal

The UC San Diego Medical Center has been awarded a $731,070 grant to develop a medical information exchange system to alleviate overcrowding in emergency rooms.

The San Diego Safety Net Health Information Exchange will be used in conjunction with UCSD's Medical Center in Hillcrest and Thornton Hospital in La Jolla, according to a Jan. 17 announcement.

The grant was given out by United Health Group/PacifiCare, a Minneapolis-based health company that has committed $25 million to nonprofit organizations in California, according to a UCSD news release.

The grant will be used to fund staff time to develop the software, the training of staff members with the new system and the evaluation of the impact, says Dr. Ted Chan, medical director at UCSD's emergency department.

UC San Diego will work on the project with the San Diego Family Care and Family Health Centers of San Diego clinics, according to Dr. Chan. Uninsured patients who seek treatment at local emergency rooms will have an opportunity to receive follow-up appointments at participating clinics.

The results of a pilot study showed that patients were 10 times more likely to go to a scheduled appointment than when they were offered a clinic referral with no appointment. The system will also allow the clinics and emergency rooms to share information from a patient's medical record.

The UCSD Medical Center treats more than 600,000 emergency care patients each year. Forty-five percent of all hospital discharges are uninsured or Medi-Cal patients.

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Physicians Dissatisfied With Work: Local physicians in large group practices (more than 25 physicians) reported that they are accepting up to 25 percent fewer patients who pay by Medi-Cal, according to the 2007 San Diego County Physician Workforce & Compensation Survey.

The 38-page report produced by the San Diego County Medical Society was compiled using e-surveys completed by about 350 county physicians in September and October and released Jan. 29. The society is a nonprofit professional organization with more than 2,500 members.

Physicians changing views on Medicare, primary care as a specialty and dissatisfaction with practicing medicine were three of the more noticeable results of the survey, according to Tom Gehring, executive director and chief executive officer of the San Diego County Medical Society.

Physicians in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN reported that there was a shortage of doctors and had difficulty recruiting, especially in family and internal medicine practices.

For physicians who have been in practice for six to 10 years and 11 to 15 years, dissatisfaction was at the highest.

Physician work hours also showed an increase since the last SDCMS report in 2005. It showed the average clinical and nonclinical workweek at 60 hours, a three-hour increase since 2005. The average in 2002 was 53 hours.

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State Senate Panel Votes Against Health Care For All: On Jan. 28, a state Senate committee voted 7-1 against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's health care reform bill, which would have guaranteed health insurance for all Californians and increased Medi-Cal reimbursements to doctors and hospitals.

While many small-business organizations announced support for the decision, other organizations such as the Sacramento-based California Hospital Association issued a statement expressing disappointment.

The National Federation of Independent Business/California had voiced concern about the loss of 41,000 jobs during the first five years of enactment. The Sacramento-based advocacy organization's research foundation conducted a study that showed the bill, ABX1 1, would result in an $8.2 billion loss to the state economy during the same five-year span.

In a news release, Schwarzenegger said: "Despite the Senate's rejection of our comprehensive health care reform bill, I want the people of California to know I will not give up trying to fix our broken health care system. Businesses and families will still get hit with double-digit cost increases until we rein in those costs."

Send health care news to Jaimy Lee at jlee@sdbj.com . She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359, ext. 3107.