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Health information exchanges begin sharing medical records

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The Indianapolis-based Indiana Health Information Exchange today began sharing electronic medical records with two similar organizations across a multi-regional network, the group announced this morning.

Connecting with HealthLINC in Bloomington and HealthBridge in Cincinnati creates the nation’s first exchange of medical information among such organizations in different regions, Indiana Health Information Exchange officials said.

These organizations have been exchanging health information within their regions for years. But, now they can exchange information between regions as well.

Now, for example, if a patient is admitted to a hospital in Indianapolis, physicians at his or her doctor’s office in Bloomington will be able to access the patient’s medical information via the Internet, including test results and radiology notes.

"[This] represents a real milestone in the use of technology in health care," Dr. Todd Rowland, executive director of HealthLINC, said in a written statement. "This is the first real-time, live, ongoing health information exchange between separate communities. Previous demonstrations have used test data or been within a single organization using the same technology system."

Adoption of such systems, which replace paper files, has been slow among doctors due to high costs and time involved for installation.

“This connectivity among communities will undoubtedly mean fewer repeated tests and better care coordination between rural and urban providers,” Dr. J. Marc Overhage, CEO of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, said in a written statement.

Together, the three exchanges connect more than 15,000 physicians, 50 hospitals and 12 million patient records, officials said. Work to connect them started in 2007, with contracts awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the National Health Information Network.

Initially, the Indiana Health Information Exchange will send medical records to HealthLINC and HealthBridge providers. Full interconnectivity, in which information will flow among all exchanges, should begin in mid-September.

The Indiana Health Information Exchange is based on 35 years of work by the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute Inc.

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