Government Technology

Pennsylvania Creates Health Information Exchange

March 31, 2008 By

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced last week that he has signed an executive order creating the Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange, which is a framework that will give health care providers improved access to clinical data and lead to safer and more efficient patient-centered care. The initiative is part of the Governor's Prescription for Pennsylvania health care reform plan.

"By offering health-care providers the ability to electronically share patient information, we will be able to improve patient care and safety and reduce health care costs that are a result of today's independent information technology systems," Rendell said.

The Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange -- or PHIX -- will provide the information technology architecture to support statewide interoperable electronic health records and electronic prescribing by sharing data that is captured at the point of care in a physician office or hospital. Most doctor's offices, hospitals, laboratories, and pharmacies now have their own separate information systems. With an information exchange, those entities will be able to share information with various health care providers and other authorized parties for treatment purposes.

Health information exchanges will help to provide clinicians with important medical details about the patients they treat.

Consider the example of a person who lives in Harrisburg, travels to Erie on business and is involved in an auto accident: he is taken to an Erie hospital's emergency department and has identification, but he is unconscious and can't provide information on his medical history. With an exchange, the emergency department physician enters the patient's name into a computer and immediately learns that the person had an EKG and blood tests during an annual physical and is taking medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and is allergic to penicillin.

The ability for the physician to have access to the patient's recent laboratory tests, radiology exams, hospital discharge notes and medications prescribed gives him the ability to quickly make the appropriate treatment decisions. Having access to all of the care given to this patient keeps the physician from ordering duplicative tests that may have been recently preformed, thereby reducing costs.

"Even though there are significant cost savings from the use of an information exchange, it is expected that the clinical payoff in improved patient safety and quality of care will far exceed the financial benefits," Governor Rendell said.

"Giving clinicians access to data about their patients' care by other providers will result in fewer medical errors and better continuity of care. Less time will be wasted waiting for patient's charts and for processing referrals. And, reporting of vital statistics and diseases will be more efficient and complete."

The Governor's executive order also establishes an advisory council and provides for advisory organizations. The advisory council is made up of representatives from state agencies, legislators, insurers, physicians, hospital executives, pharmaceutical organizations and nurses who will advise on IT strategies and issues. The advisory organizations may provide research, analysis and recommendations relative to the unique needs of the state. The Pennsylvania Health Initiative is recognized as an advisory organization to PHIX

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