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Hospitals gaining access to electronic health records

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

Efforts to establish a statewide exchange of electronic health records are well under way and have reached northwest Kansas.

Hays Medical Center on Nov. 16 began sending digital patient records to the Kansas Health Information Network. Those records could be accessed by other health care providers across the state when needed.

"This is meant to make critical patient information available in the event of an emergency, or if a provider needs access to something," said Scott Rohleder, information technology director at HaysMed. "It's to make your care more efficient, of better quality. There may be better outcomes because (providers) have access to information more timely."

HaysMed is sending only some portions of patient records, such as patients' allergy and problem lists and immunization records.

The information is sent to KHIN's repository of health records, which can be accessed only by authorized health care providers. There are security mechanisms in place to ensure the information is pulled only when necessary, Rohleder said, noting federal privacy requirements still apply.

"You have to have a very specific login to get into this," he said. "Everything is tracked; everything is audited."

Patients can restrict electronic access to their health records at the state level. There is not yet a way for patients to filter the information, meaning the records are either completely available or restricted.

Patients can visit www.khie.org for more information about the exchange or to opt out of the exchange.

As of Dec. 14, KHIN had 142,833 patients in the health information exchange. There are 14 facilities in the state that have gone live with the technology. In western Kansas, Smith County Hospital also is sending patient records.

Wichita hospitals Via Christi and Wesley were first to join the KHIN exchange in early September. HaysMed initially planned to go live last summer, but delayed to resolve some issues identified in final testing phases, Rohleder said.

With many of the state's largest hospitals now sending patient records, smaller practices also are looking to join the exchange. Post Rock Family Medicine in Plainville, which was one of the first practices in the state to implement electronic records, hopes to be the first rural clinic to go live early next year, Dr. Jennifer Brull said.

For now, Brull said she is pleased many patient records now are available from HaysMed.

"Soon, we'll be able to actually see data so when my patients have labs done at HaysMed, now I'll be able to get on the health information exchange," Brull said. "I won't have to call for medical records or things like that. That's really exciting."

The ultimate goal is the establishment of a nationwide health information exchange. Doctors having the ability to access patient information quickly is expected to improve the quality of patient care by alerting providers of patient allergies and medication lists. It's also expected to reduce health costs -- doctors can access lab and X-ray records rather than repeating diagnostic tests.

"That's the goal of the health information exchange is to make sure the information the doctor needs is available at the point of care so the doctors can make the right decision about the patient's care," said Laura McCrary, executive director of KHIN. "That's really the goal of health information exchange, and we're getting to the point where within the next year we will be there."