Paving the Path to Pennsylvania’s Health Care Information Highway

Paving the Path to Pennsylvania’s Health Care Information Highway

What if you are seeing a patient for a follow-up from the ER, and with a click or two, you could find out what happened, what tests they had, and what you needed to know as you saw them the next day?

A patient recently discharged from the hospital?

A new patient you’ve never seen before, asking for narcotics for a chronic pain problem?

An unconscious patient in the ER and the only ID you have is a driver’s license?

What if you are one of those patients?

The road to obtaining that information is being paved right now. It’s an HIE (Health Information Exchange), and it was started in Pennsylvania with the enactment of ACT 121.

The Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority has been running and working hard to get this HIE working for providers and patients in Pennsylvania. As the inaugural chair at the eHealth Partnership, and a continuing board member representing nurses and physicians in the state, I’ve been intimately involved. Here’s a brief summary to date.

Watch a video on HIEs on the eHealth Partnership’s website

Let’s clarify some acronyms. An HIE is a Health Information Exchange – the organization that is going to connect the various Health Information Organizations (HIOs) to each other. In Pennsylvania, it’s been branded as the Pennsylvania Patient and Provider Network (P3N). The HIOs connect a specific group of providers to each other, and potentially to the HIE or P3N (HIOs can be local, regional or specific to an insurer or health system).

A stakeholder-driven process started it all. That process ended with the Authority being a clearinghouse of sorts – a directory that will have links to other HIOs that may be regional or not, which will contract with local providers to connect them and their EHRs to the statewide network.

The Authority will set the rules so there are no compatibility issues, and it will connect ultimately to the national HIE, so you can access information about any patient in the U.S. Some of the HIOs may opt to not join the statewide HIE, for a number of reasons, including competition, pricing, or other reasons.

The P3N is completing a pilot program in September with Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network (HIOs). Lessons learned will be applied and discussed at the Oct. 21-22 plenary meeting, which you are welcome to attend.

Soon, the Authority hopes to provide linkages to public health agencies so that public health reporting can be done through the Authority.

Privacy remains one of the sticky issues, especially focused around Super Protected Data – to resolve the differences between federal and state law and guidelines, and allow for sharing of the right information, to the right people at the right time.

The vision is becoming a reality, and while there are steps yet to be taken and problems to be solved, the fantasy of being able to find out what you need to know about that patient in front of you easily and quickly is coming to fruition.

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