Health Information Exchange: MA and HI Move Forward; Interoperability Issues Plague VT

by Published On: Aug 23, 2012

Massachusetts and Hawaii are celebrating the expansion of their health information exchanges (HIE). At the same time, Vermont’s HIE is experiencing some growing pains.

Massachusetts: $50 Million HIE Project Gets Boost from CMS

A $16.9 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will help Massachusetts build its statewide HIE. According to iHealthBeat, the new federal funding will support the first phase of a 3-part, $50 million project:

  • Phase 1: Beginning this fall, a few organizations will use a cloud-based system to send health data to each other. 
  • Phase 2: In 2013, the state will collect data for measuring health care quality.
  • Phase 3: In 2014 and 2015, the HIE will let users search for data about a patient. Right now, users must receive data from another provider

Hawaii: Island’s First HIE Has Plans for Expansion

Officials at the Hawai'i Island Beacon Community (HIBC) plan to connect the region's first HIE with other regional HIEs and the Nationwide Health Information Network. HIBC is working with the North Hawai'i Community Hospital.

According to Healthcare IT News, the new HIE gives authorized doctors easy and immediate access to patient information from a variety of health care settings. Emergency room doctors can now view patient histories kept by primary care physicians. In turn, primary care doctors can view information about their patients' hospital admissions and discharges.

The HIE's software puts patient information on a single screen so care providers can quickly view information and trends on their computer or iPad.

"This demonstrates what I believed was possible: that technology can and must be elegant in how it presents patient information,” says Dr. William Park, a physician at North Hawai'i Community Hospital. “This solution represents a fundamental step forward in how we deliver and coordinate care."

Vermont: Interoperability Issues Stall HIE Development

Vermont has run into some snags in its effort to get resident health records computerized and online. Vermont Public Radio (VPR) reports that the state’s electronic health record (EHR) systems “are not fully compatible and the information they produce is not always accurate.”

Part of the problem is that Vermont was an early EHR adopter, says Hunt Blair, the state's health information technology coordinator. Blair told the legislature's Health Access Oversight Committee that some of the state’s early computer systems are not capable of exchanging data across different platforms. He blames the absence of strong federal interoperability standards for this disconnect.

"For instance, in as simple a thing as recording blood pressure, some systems record it as a text, some as numbers," he says. "That's where the problems begin. When you have one system that keeps something as an integer and another as text it gets very hard to merge that data together without lots of translation steps."


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