EDITORIAL: Leadership has its rewards: Health info exchange is exhibit A

May 5, 2008

Leadership has its rewards Health info exchange is exhibit A

Being the best isn't everything, but it goes a long way when you're trying to attract money and expertise.

That's why it's significant that the Indiana Health Information Exchange is taking its show on the road. As IBJ reporter J.K. Wall reported last week, those who oversee the platform for sharing patient records and test results electronically are preparing to make it available in other states. Hospitals and physicians in other cities are clamoring for the locally developed system, which can save time and money and reduce medical errors.

If those responsible for the exchange succeed in exporting it, Indianapolis will secure its reputation as a leader in the field. And if that sends a message that this is a place where innovative ideas gain traction, innovators from a variety of fields-and the money that supports them-will be drawn here.

"What you're seeing is a groundswell of activity to drive toward what Indiana has done," said the leader of one national group promoting the use of technology in health care. A national trade journal called Indiana's exchange "the most advanced in the nation."

Such recognition is surely gratifying for Dr. Marc Overhage, the CEO of the exchange. And it gives David Johnson, who leads the area's life sciences effort BioCrossroads, one more selling point for the Indianapolis region.

Not that there aren't more practical reasons for hoping the effort succeeds.

For starters, building a national system would add considerably to the $5.5 million in fee revenue the exchange pulls in.

It could also save money. If Indiana's information exchange model becomes the national norm, the rest of the country will have to adapt to it. If it doesn't, health administrators here will have to change computers and procedures to adapt to another system-likely an expensive proposition.

The 4-year-old health information exchange also stands to add significantly to its database if health providers from cities across the country join the system. Hosting one of the nation's largest repositories of patient records would surely put the not-for-profit exchange in a strong position to provide other services down the road.

Using the success of the exchange to leverage other opportunities is arguably the most important outcome of all the hard work that's gone into creating it over the last 35 years.

Thanks to everyone who has played a role in creating the health information exchange over the years. It's an achievement all of us can be proud of and a reminder that the richest opportunities usually fall to leaders, not followers.

As a region, Indianapolis should always aspire to lead the way.

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.
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