University of Pittsburgh

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Rapid Records

Written by Emily Karam

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In a modest brick building in lower Manhattan, not far from City Hall, two health care specialists confer about their joint project and biggest job challenge ever. Laura Rosas (CGS ’95, GSPH ’04, LAW ’04), a health care lawyer, and Nicholas Soulakis, an epidemiologist and doctoral student in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, are both senior managers with New York City’s Primary Care Information Project. That means they’re part of a massive effort to convert the city’s tons of paper medical records into electronic records, making patients’ medical information quickly available to health care providers via computers.

A $60 million initiative of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the project is helping private doctors and public health departments coordinate care through the nearly instantaneous exchange of data, from sending wireless prescriptions to pharmacies to alerting physicians when their patients fall behind on treatment programs. At the moment, Rosas and Soulakis are focusing on getting electronic health records software in doctors’ offices across New York City. So far, more than 3,000 physicians have enrolled.

Rosas and Soulakis were recruited separately to the project—she to ensure that patients’ confidentiality rights are protected; he to create an electronic surveillance program and, later, to develop ways to transmit epidemiological data to the city’s health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Initially, they were unaware of their common Pitt pedigree, but now their meetings are sprinkled with talk about Squirrel Hill coffee shops or Pitt sports. Because of its size and success, the New York City project has become a national model. Rosas and Soulakis are among those leading the way to better health care through new technology.

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