Information Exchanges Let Doctors Share Patient Data Efficiently

Several new networks are being launched across the country, and while they vary in size, scope, and clientele, the goals and challenges are similar.
So far, 1,600 physicians are live on the EMR system; the goal for 2010 is to have 2,500 doctors, serving 2 million patients, using digital records. The system provides doctors with electronic alerts when a patient's data indicates a new problem, such when a diabetic's blood pressure is gets too high. It also provides guidance about treatments and approved medication for chronically ill patients, said Parsons.

In January, the city will launch a pilot project to encourage the primary care doctors who are using eClinicalWorks EMR system to start exchanging patient data with one another and with area hospitals. Later, the data could be shared among the area's four regional health information exchanges.

The eClinicalWorks EMR system doesn't use a central repository, Parsons said, but rather data is sent to physicians or they request it. Several patient identifiers are used to ensure data being accessed is for the correct patient, she said.

Local Focus

Some health information exchanges are launched locally, focusing on getting a hospital group and its affiliated doctors exchanging information. This is often the first step toward a wider data exchange network.

Caritas Christi, which operates six community hospitals serving about 1 million patients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is launching an internal health information exchange using Microsoft Amalga and HealthVault technologies so its network of doctors can connect to Caritas Christi systems. The hospital system expects to broaden the exchange in the future.

"We've been assured that we can hook up with state health information exchanges" and the national health information network in the future, said Caritas Christi CIO Todd Rothenhaus.

Whether a health information exchange is large or small, rural or urban, using a central repository or a peer-to-peer federated model or some other method of sharing data, they all have the same goal: To securely and efficiently share patient data so that providers can deliver quality, cost-effective care. And if the exchanges being developed now can sustain themselves in the long terms, hopefully, they'll be able eventually to connect into the expanding national health information highway.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).

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