Putting Health IT on the Path to Success

“The promise of health information technology (HIT) is comprehensive electronic patient records when and where needed, leading to improved quality of care at reduced cost. However, physician experience and other available evidence suggest that this promise is largely unfulfilled.

Comprehensive records require more than having every physician and hospital use an electronic health record (EHR) system. There must also be an effective, efficient, and trustworthy mechanism for health information exchange (HIE) to aggregate each patient’s scattered records into a complete whole when needed. This mechanism must also be accurate and reliable, protect patient privacy, and ensure that medical record access is transparent and accountable to patients.”

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New Harvard survey casts serious doubt on future of RHIOs

Electronic clinical data exchange across the United States is far from a reality, with few organizations facilitating such exchange and many failing in the process, reports a new study by Harvard researchers published today on the Health Affairs Web site.
The study, based on a 2007 survey of 145 regional health information organizations (RHIOs), is an assessment of the state of electronic health data exchange in the United States.
Electronic health data exchange between hospitals, doctors’ offices, labs, and other clinical settings has been hailed by many in the healthcare industry as the key to improving the quality, efficiency, and coordination of care. But the new survey, funded by Harvard’s Program for Health Systems Improvement, identifies serious barriers to achieving this goal with the current approach.
{“RHIOS don’t work because the only legal and ethical way to make the health information flow is with informed consent.” ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Does Santa Barbara RHIO shutdown affect California HIE efforts?

The Santa Barbara Co. Care Data Exchange (SBCCDE) was the oldest regional health information organization (RHIO) in the country until it ended its efforts last week. Depending upon whom you talk to, the shutdown is either major news or a mere blip on the health information exchange (HIE) radar screen.
Karen Hunt, director of communications for CalRHIO, sees no impact from SBCCDE’s closure. “CalRHIO and local and regional efforts have been moving forward during all the time that Santa Barbara was stalled and finally closed,” she said. “California healthcare organizations and payers in the state recognize the importance and benefits of HIE.”
She pointed out that Governor Schwarzenegger issued an executive order supporting healthcare information technology and HIEs earlier this week.
Furthermore, CalRHIO announced a few days later that it had selected its technology partners to connect communities and the entire state with a suite of affordable, secure, privacy-protected services.
“CalRHIO’s primary goal is to deliver critical health information services reliably and affordably to clinicians, patients, state, county and federal health agencies, and local exchange efforts throughout California,” Hunt said. “We went through a rigorous RFP and selection process to identify a solution that offers a strong, proven and scalable technology platform that will eliminate limitations on how individual healthcare organizations and local communities design and implement the health information exchange services they need.”
{The author doesn’t explain the cause of the demise of the nation’s oldest regional health information organization (RHIO) in Santa Barbara, but cryptically notes that privacy issues “plagued” the organization. It would be nice to know what part privacy or the lack of privacy (patient control of access to personal health information) played in its demise, to be able to tell if a tragedy or a triumph occurred. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}