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Hospitals kill the fax and exchange health data over the Internet

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 3, 2011
R.I., Minnesota in pilot program on moving health care information via the 'Net

FRAMINGHAM 3 FEBRUARY 2011 - Health-care facilities in two states have begun exchanging data with each other and public health agencies over the Internet as part of a pilot program that standardizes the way patient information is transmitted. The goal is to speed up data transmission and to track public health trends, the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced today.

The new electronic data transfer model replaces healthcare's more traditional methods of sharing information, such as fax machines and U.S. mail.

The Direct Project, overseen by the ONC, involves hospitals in Minnesota and Rhode Island that are exchanging information, including laboratory results, physician-to-physician transfers of summary patient records, data from physicians to hospitals for patient admission, hospital discharge data, and information to public health agencies.

For example, since mid-January, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota has been sending immunization records to the Minnesota Department of Health.

"This demonstrates the success that is possible through public-private collaborations," James Golden, Minnesota's state health information technology coordinator, said in a statement. "This is an important milestone for Minnesota and a key step toward the seamless electronic movement of information to improve care and public health."

Health-care facilities and state health agencies in six other states, California, Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, will soon follow suit. The project is expected eventually to be adopted nationwide.

The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI), has delivered a pilot project with two primary goals. First, RIQI is improving care when patients are referred to specialists by sharing health-care provider-to-provider data. Second, RIQI is leveraging Direct Project messaging as a means to securely feed clinical information from physicians' electronic health records (EHRs) to the statewide health information exchange, called Currentcare, to improve quality by detecting gaps in care and making sure the full record is available to all care providers.

Direct Project's information exchange capabilities will also support providers in meeting "meaningful use" objectives established last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and will thus support providers in qualifying for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments in their use of EHRs. The Direct Project specifications can also support physician-to-patient information transfers. Microsoft today also announced an application for that purpose based on Direct Project standards. The program uses Microsoft's online personal health record application, HealthVault, to allow physicians to securely send health-care information through encrypted e-mail to their patients.

 

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