Exchange group signs vendor contract

Digital exchange of health records the goal


— A consortium of Kansas health care providers has hired a Nashville-based company to help it build a statewide health information exchange system.

“This has the potential for making a significant improvement, over time, to the quality of care that’s delivered in Kansas,” said Jon Rosell, executive director at the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.

The medical society, which earlier was instrumental in creating the Wichita Health Information Exchange, is one of four organizations in the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN), which earlier this week announced it had entered a contract with Informatics Corporation of America.

Others in the network:

• Kansas Medical Society;

• Kansas Hospital Association;

• eHealthAlign.

The contract calls for the company to develop an online system for KHIN that will give multiple providers prompt access to patients’ medical records.

Today, increasing numbers of physicians use electronic medical records within their practices or clinics. Few, however, are able to transmit the records to fellow physicians or other providers outside their practices. Instead, they rely on fax machines or the mail.

Waiting by the fax machine

“I’d venture to bet that at any time during the day in Wichita, there are a dozen nurses standing in front of a fax machine waiting for documents being sent from one provider to another,” Rosell said.

There also is a wide variety of systems being used by doctors. A recent survey, he said, found that while 65 percent of the physicians in Wichita have electronic medical records, they’re using at least 19 different systems.

“That kind of surprised us,” Rosell said. “It means that just in Wichita, we have 19 silos of information and, right now, those silos are not sharing information across the medical trade region.”

The region includes all of Kansas and parts of western Missouri.

The new exchange, Rosell said, would help eliminate the silos.

“When a physician sees a patient who’s seeing three other physicians, he or she will be able to see what meds they’re on now, what they’ve prescribed in the past, lab results, surgical histories – they’ll have it right in front of them when they’re in front of the patient.”

Rosell said he expects the exchange to be “up and running” – at least in and around Wichita – by summer’s end.

As a result of some provisions in the 2009 federal economic stimulus law, health care providers with certified electronic medical record systems will be eligible for federal incentive payments of up to $44,000 per physician.

“The first payments,” Rosell said, “won’t occur until May 2011.”

Medicare and Medicaid providers who do not adopt certified systems by 2014 subsequently would face payment reductions, under terms of the law.

Less duplication

Dr. Jennifer Brull, a family practice physician in Plainville, said she wants her practice to be one of the first to take part in the exchange.


Jennifer Brull

View larger photo

“I’ve had an electronic medical records system since March of 2008,” she said. “I also have lab interface with the lab at the hospital. It’s wonderful. The (test results) go directly into a patient’s medical records as soon as its available – within seconds. It’s there, it’s certified. If it’s abnormal, I’m flagged that it’s abnormal.

“But if, say, a cardiologist decides to change one of my patient’s medication – I get that by stamp or by fax,” she said. “Then, I have to reconcile the list of medications in my file. It’s a manual process, it’s time intensive, and it’s expensive.”

The exchange, Brull said, is sure to increase efficiency within the health-care system.

“I try not to think about how many times a patient has an X-ray, gets referred to ‘ortho,’ and then, because they don’t have the X-ray with them, gets another one,” she said. “With the exchange, that X-ray is going to be right there.”