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Health Information Exchange Will Allow Patients to Share Medical Information

Lisa Eramo, for HealthLeaders Media, June 11, 2009

Patients in Rhode Island will soon have a choice regarding whether they will allow their protected health information shared through a statewide health information exchange. The exchange will also allow their providers access to lab data and medication history.

The HIE—termed currentcare—is a secure electronic network created with a $5 million federal grant that the Rhode Island Department of Health received in September 2004 when Rhode Island was chosen as one of six states to receive funds from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Rhode Island subcontracted with the Rhode Island Quality Institute to provide governance for the initiative, the first phase of which is set to go live in the fall.

The exchange of electronic health information is at the forefront of health leaders' minds these days, particularly because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act earmarks $300 million specifically for these types of developments. HIEs—the mobilization of healthcare information electronically across organizations or within a region, community or state—is one way of sharing data in this way.

"I think the government is really clear on how important the health information exchange component is to achieving our goal of safer, higher quality, and more efficient care," says Laura Adams, president of CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, adding that currentcare plans to tap into the funds that would support a more robust capability for data exchange into and out of electronic medical records.

"Our plan is to interface all providers and sources of clinical data, such as labs, pharmacies, radiology centers, and hospitals into the system soon and as well as bring in data from physician's offices," Adams says. "Our funders have said we need to exchange data in and out of EMRs sooner rather than anticipated, so we're applying for the available stimulus funding. If we're able to get stimulus money, we can certainly ramp this up and shorten our timeline considerably."

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