Four hospitals this week are expected to become the first in Kansas to "go live" exchanging electronic health records over a statewide network.
Officials at Wesley Medical Center and three Via Christi Health hospitals, all in Wichita, currently are making final technical adjustments to their connection with the Kansas Health Information Network, said Kansas Health Information Network chief executive Laura McCrary. She said full connectivity with the network is scheduled for Friday.
"This will allow three hospitals of Via Christi to be able to share information with Wesley and Wesley to be able to share information with those three hospitals," McCrary said. "There always has to be a first step and this is the first step."
KHIN officials had originally hoped to take the network live at the beginning of July, but were delayed for technical reasons.
The next step in the network's development will be connecting the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, Hays Medical Center and Pratt Regional Medical Center.
McCrary said all were on pace to go live on the network before the end of August.
Before the end of 2012, another 20 facilities should be connected and then about 20 additional facilities per quarter through the end of 2013, McCrary predicted.
KHIN is one of two networks approved to be part of the statewide health information exchange. Officials from the other network, LACIE, said they were expecting to go live with Shawnee Mission Medical Center in late August.
If expectations are met, within the next year about a third of Kansas patients will receive care from a provider who is connected to the exchange, McCrary said.
Patients who receive care from hospitals or other providers connected to the exchange will receive privacy notices telling them that unless they opt out of the system their health records may be shared electronically under the same legal protection that currently applies to their paper-based health records.
Those who don’t want their records available on the network must mail in an "opt-out" form, which is available via the khie.org. So far 115 Kansans have submitted an opt-out form, officials said — far fewer than were anticipated.
As it is more widely adopted, digital health information exchange is expected to replace paper records, which are typically transferred among medical professionals via fax, discs, mail or by patients themselves. The digital exchanges are expected to improve patient care, reduce errors and help cut medical costs by avoiding redundant and ineffective treatments, supporters of the new technology say.
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