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Feature

Rx For Improving Patient Care

Providence Health builds portal giving doctors secure access to patient records
Providence Health System was practiced at making health-care information available to consumers through its Web site, but it turned to Web-services technologies to accomplish a more challenging feat: making patients' medical histories almost instantly available to their acute-care physicians.

Doctor in front of a computer monitor
Photo by Angela Wyant
Providence is a nonprofit health-care organization with participating doctors' offices and clinics in California, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon; it manages 19 hospitals and 19 long-term care facilities. Late last year, the company built a Web portal with data-warehouse services behind it that aggregates information on individual patients. The portal makes the medical histories documented in Providence-enrolled doctors' offices and clinics available to doctors treating patients who have entered its acute- and long-term care facilities.

When a convalescent-facility doctor needs to know what medication a patient has been using or what treatments he or she has received, the physician can go to the portal and within three seconds receive a report detailing everything Providence knows about that patient. The Health Integrated Delivery Network, as it's called, is expected to improve patient care and let doctors work more efficiently.

The portal needed strict identification and authorization for its participating physicians, so Providence used Infravio Inc.'s Ensemble system to provide authentication as a Web service. Under Ensemble, each Web service has a "contract," a set of binding rules that govern what it can do for a party calling for the service.

Early next year, Providence plans to add a new service using the Ensemble technology that will let doctors send secure messages on health issues or test results to patients. "We anticipate that it will reduce the caseload," says Mike Reagin, the company's director of research and development.

The contract approach also is used at Providence's consumer Web site to register people for health-care courses and other events.