As part of a federal initiative designed to improve medical care through health information technology (health IT), several San Diego health care providers announced Monday that they are ready to launch a health information exchange (HIE) that will link area hospitals, clinics, ambulances, and other health care facilities electronically to improve communication and allow for the exchange of vital patient information.
The San Diego Beacon Community (SDBC) was one of 17 communities nationwide chosen by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to demonstrate how information technology could measurably improve the health of a region. SDBC was awarded a three-year, $15.3 million grant to target four specific areas: improve care for emergency cardiac patients, reduce hospital readmission, reduce unnecessary CT scans and improve rates and reporting of childhood immunizations.
A major component of the project will be building a community health information exchange that will link health care providers electronically. Once connected, authorized physicians will be able to request and access a complete and up-to-date medical record from other participating physicians who have also seen the patient for clinical care. Transmitted medical information will include recent diagnoses, medications, allergies, lab test results, radiology results and discharge summaries. In essence, the patient’s medical record will follow them regardless of where they received care in San Diego. With access to better patient information, physicians will be able to provide higher quality care, reduce unnecessary repeat tests and procedures, and lower the risk of potential medical errors.
SDBC selected OptumInsight (formerly Axolotl) to build San Diego’s health information exchange. “Patient privacy and data security are our top priorities in this project,” said Ted Chan, MD, San Diego Beacon program lead. “It was critical for the SDBC to select a vendor with proven and compliant technology that meets state and national standards.” San Diego is OptumInsight’s fifth Beacon community including Utah, Colorado, Western New York and Cincinnati.
Patients will be fully in control of their medical information by providing one of three consent options: emergency (only allow access in the event of an emergency), full (access information for all health care encounters), or none (do not allow access). Patients will be able to provide consent at their doctor’s office and can change their consent status at any time. Physicians at participating Beacon sites are only allowed to access information when providing medical care to the patient.
“Most people maintain and keep better records for their cars than they do their own health care,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “With the Health Information Exchange, an emergency room doctor could quickly and independently get lifesaving information about a patient, even one who has arrived unconscious.”
John Dalton, a local cardiac patient attributes his survival and quick recovery from a heart attack to the ability of health care providers to exchange and share his medical data. Paramedics were able to send Dalton’s ECG electronically from the ambulance to the hospital where the Emergency Department physician and cardiologist were able to access the information before he arrived.
“Years ago they would have had to wait until I arrived in the ER before the paramedics could tell the doctor what they thought was going on,” said Dalton. “My ECG arrived to the ER before I did, and my doctor knew immediately that I was having a heart attack. That information allowed him to make an informed decision about my treatment before he even saw me. Modern medicine is great as far as I’m concerned.”
The health information exchange will launch in early December at selected sites of participating organizations including Children’s Primary Care Medical Group, Rady Children’s Hospital, UC San Diego Health System, Sharp Community Medical Group, and VA San Diego Healthcare System. The health information exchange will be implemented within other sites throughout the San Diego health care community over the next 14 months.
Physicians, patients and other San Diegans interested in learning more about the San Diego Beacon Community project and how to participate in the health information exchange are encouraged to visit www.SanDiegoBeacon.org for more information.