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Doctors look forward to digital exchange

7/19/2012

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

In just a few weeks, medical records for thousands of patients will be available on the new Kansas Health Information Exchange.

The secure system will allow doctors throughout the state to access needed patient data via electronic health records.

"If I have a patient in Plainville who has gotten care in Hays, which happens a lot, I'll be able to get on that portal and look at all of the information, their labs, their X-rays, their dictations from the hospital," said Dr. Jennifer Brull, a family practice physician in Plainville.

The goal behind the technology is to make health care more efficient. By having access to a patient's medical history, physicians could save time and money by not repeating diagnostic procedures or ineffective treatments.

The first hospitals to go live with this technology will be Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. That is expected to occur next week, Brull said.

Patients can opt not to have their data shared electronically, but so far few patients have chosen to do so, she said.

Hays Medical Center also is slated to be one of the first hospitals to have its data available on the exchange, likely sometime in August.

Staff members with the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care were at Sternberg Museum of Natural History on Tuesday and Wednesday to help educate area health clinics about electronic health record technology.

While some hospitals in the area are preparing to join the exchange, others are in the early phases of implementing digital record-keeping systems, said Donna Garwood, a health information technology regional extension center educator.

The goal of the event was to help rural clinics that have not yet implemented the technology. Several EHR vendors were on hand for the two-day seminar.

"In order to get the information exchange, which we know is going to be so much better for providers and patients ... we have to have the clinical information digital," she said.

The foundation has received federal funding for regional extension centers to help Kansas medical clinics make the transition. Providers who meet federal standards by the end of this year are eligible for a maximum government reimbursement to offset technology costs.

While large hospitals throughout the state are being targeted first for the health information exchange, many clinics in northwest Kansas have embraced electronic records, said Trisha Harkness, who works for the regional extension center and is based in Scott City.

"All of them really understand there is great benefit in being electronic," Harkness said. "Just from reduced paper chasing and tracking down charts, that's one of the things they all see very quickly."