Representatives from Wichita's largest medical providers officially signaled their intent to participate in the state's first community-wide health information exchange.
The hospitals and clinics participating so far represent some 300 physicians, more than a quarter of those in the state's most populated county.
"Our intent is to gradually add all physicians and all hospitals — no one will be excluded," said Ron Brown, a physician and board president of the Wichita Health Information Exchange (WHIE).
Brown said the exchange also would soon include labs, imaging centers, long-term care facilities, pharmacies and safety-net clinics.
The WHIE is one of the two major community health information exchanges organized in Kansas so far (the other is eHealth Align in the Kansas City metro area). An HIE is a network over which electronic health information is exchanged among a patient's various medical providers.
WHIE and KHIN Kickoff presentation
There also is a state-based initiative — The Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) — working to bring together various regional exchanges as well as individual providers into a single network using the same software. Both WHIE and eHealth Align have joined KHIN.
All regional and community-based exchanges will be regulated by the The Kansas Health Information Exchange, Inc., which has oversight responsibility for ensuring proper handling of medical records via exchanges in order to protect patient medical privacy.
After a press event Monday, WHIE leaders held their first organizational meeting with KHIN and the software vendor, ICA, to discuss "timelines and critical steps in implementation," said Jon Rosell, WHIE board member and executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.
"This is just the start," Rosell said. "And we all agreed that there's really no finish line. This will be a constant process of expanding and refining and building upon the strength of the exchange over a period of time."
The first major step is to develop "use cases," Rosell said, "the critical pieces of information that will be exchanged as it relates to an individual patients across our medical trade region."
Next, WHIE will deploy workgroups to advance the exchange, such as the clinical workgroup, he said.
"Their responsibility is to discuss — from a clinical standpoint — what are the critical pieces of information necessary to provide good, efficient, high quality level of service across our medical trade region. That will form the backbone of our health information exchange," Rosell said.
He said the plan is to "go live" in six to eight months with the participating providers announced today. "We will build from there quickly," he predicted.
Wichita is the first community-based exchange to secure commitments from participants and start the technical work toward exchanging data, said KHIN Executive Director Laura McCrary.
"There's lots of mechanisms and logistics and organizational structures that we have to jump through," McCrary said. "But the promise of the health information exchange is that it's really going to transform health care."
The Wichita providers that said Monday they will participate are:
• Wichita Family Medicine Specialists,
• West Wichita Family Physicians,
• Wesley Medical Center,
• Via Christi,
• Wichita Clinic,
• Wichita Surgical Group and
• Wichita Public Health Department.