In an age when many patients receive medical care from multiple providers, it can be difficult for clinicians to safely and easily share relevant patient information — among themselves and with patients — in a timely manner.
Enter the Health Information Exchange, or HIE. Soon, Connecticut will have two.
HIEs let doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers, as well as patients, access and securely share patient information electronically.
Proponents say having appropriate, timely access to information can help medical providers avoid remissions and medical errors, improve diagnoses, and decrease redundant testing.
The Connecticut State Medical Society, which represents physicians in the state, recently launched an HIE called CTHealthLink. Using technology that’s already being used in Kansas, officials said it is a “turnkey” HIE that needed no taxpayer money to develop or implement here.
“CTHealthLink provides a common-sense solution for our state,” CSMS Executive Vice President and CEO Matthew Katz said in a statement. “With gridlock in Hartford and a looming multibillion-dollar deficit, not to mention growing demands for patient data from Medicare, Medicaid, and private payers, CTHealthLink is ready to go at no additional cost to Connecticut.”
The system includes a statewide HIE, as well as patient health portals, data analytics tools and population health solutions, according to CSMS. It will let clinicians securely share patient information and will help them reduce treatment delays, better coordinate care, and produce better health outcomes, according to the group.
“CTHealthLink uses technology developed by physicians, for physicians and other clinicians — people who understand patient care and the demands of a busy practice,” Katz said.
While there are no upfront costs to health care providers to set up the CTHealthLink platform, it is a subscription-based model and providers will incur costs when they start using the product and actively exchanging information. According to CSMS, providers pay only for the services they use.
The HIE was first started in the spring, with the help of a physician advisory committee appointed by CSMS. The committee now is developing policies and procedures to guide the infrastructure.
The benefits aren’t just for clinicians, said CSMS President Dr. Jeffrey Gordon.
“From the patient perspective, CTHealthLink will offer a secure, one-stop site for health information,” he said in a statement. “My patients won’t need to log into multiple portals, hand-carry their records or rely on another office sending a fax.”
He continued: “Most importantly, by providing the right health information in the right place at the right time, CTHealthLink will support the patient-physician relationship, which is at the heart of good medical care.”
State officials also are in the process of developing an HIE that could foreseeably compete for subscribers with the medical societies.
Allan Hackney, the state’s health IT officer, is spearheading the state’s effort. Discussions and a “very extensive stakeholder outreach program” have been ongoing since January, but planning is still in relatively early stages, he said.
It’s too soon to tell, for instance, when a state HIE would be up and running and what it would potentially cost to implement.
Work groups are meeting to identify the top several HIE uses that would be “the most important to the health ecosystem in Connecticut,” Hackney said. Those groups likely will meet until mid-August, he said, and he expects firmer plans to emerge from those talks.