Health Information Exchange-a 21st Century Upgrade Opinion

Health Information Exchange-a 21st Century Upgrade Opinion

Not long ago, I injured my knee and discovered something else in the process: a severe sprain in the medical information system. Here’s the story:

The emergency room took X-rays and an MRI and referred me to an orthopedist. He reviewed the tests and sent me to a specialist. But my specialist—an expert in his field—suddenly found himself unable to read those very X-rays and MRI results because his electronic records system wasn’t compatible with the one at the hospital that ran the tests.

In a world where Mac users can read Word documents and cable subscribers can view the same shows as satellite owners, why can’t one doctor’s electronic record system read another’s?

What we need is a Health Information Exchange (HIE)—a system designed to allow any medical provider to view records and tests sent by another.

We have just such a proposal on the table right now. Last month, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a sweeping health coverage plan called “Healthy Pennsylvania.” While most of the attention has focused on how to broaden medical coverage using federal dollars, one of the other details involves the use of telemedicine and a commitment to the state’s eHealth Partnership Authority.

The PA eHealth Partnership Authority is designed to expand the statewide use of electronic sharing of health records among health care providers. After all, it makes no sense for insurance providers to shell out thousands of dollars for tests at one hospital if they can’t be read at another. People move around. So should their health information.

The Authority is responsible for managing a $17.1 million grant from the federal Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH. They will use this money to establish a health information exchange in Pennsylvania, including a Community Shared Services computer platform and a Public Health Gateway.

Along with making it possible for one doctor to receive and read patient records and test results forwarded by another, the platform will also enable providers to submit any required information to the state Department of Health and the Department of Public Welfare. The less time spent struggling with records, the more time spent on actual medicine.

We can achieve better health outcomes and a stronger system of collaboration among health care professionals with this Authority and the Corbett administration’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” proposal will help to make this happen.

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