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Saturday, September 20, 2014         

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Grant will help doctors go digital

Health Information Exchange's goal is to make care better and less expensive

By Kristen Consillio

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Hawaii Health Information Exchange, a nonprofit that aims to connect Hawaii's medical providers through electronic health rec­ords, said yesterday it has secured a $5.6 million federal grant to pursue the proj­ect.

The goal of the exchange is to make it possible for doctors, hospitals, laboratories, health plans and pharmacies to share patient information electronically. Sharing information could reduce duplicate diagnostic procedures and medical errors, Hawaii HIE says.

The organization gives the example of an Oahu resident knocked unconscious while traveling on the Big Island. Doctors in the emergency room on the Big Island could check the information exchange to find out whether the patient is allergic to penicillin.

"This is a great investment to increase efficiency by eliminating duplicative procedures and paperwork, better coordinate health care and build a healthier future for the people of Hawaii," said Gov. Neil Aber­crom­bie in a statement.

The group will receive the bulk the $5.6 million federal grant this year and work to implement the electronic exchange over the next three years.

Hawaii HIE received federal approval in March for its 200-page plan detailing how the exchange will be developed, governed and securely accessed in compliance with privacy laws.

The exchange could also facilitate the transfer of medical rec­ords when a patient switches to a new physician, a proc­ess that can take months now.

The exchange aims to make that task instantaneous.

A major challenge is getting all providers, particularly independent physicians, to invest in electronic health rec­ord systems, which average between $5,000 and $50,000, according to Hawaii HIE Executive Director Christine Sakuda.

"The whole point is patients transition from one provider to another, and their medical rec­ord doesn't follow them," Sakuda said.

"Physicians have to see value in the exchange. Electronic health rec­ords help providers become more efficient."

Under the federal health reform legislation, doctors who invest in electronic health rec­ords can get as much as $44,000 in incentive payments from Medicare and $63,750 from Medicaid, according to Steve Robertson, executive vice president and chief information officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, where more than 300 employed doctors use electronic health rec­ords.

Hawaii HIE was awarded $6.6 million under U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help primary-care doctors take advantage of the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health rec­ords incentive programs.

Hawaii HIE has five employees and is looking to expand to a dozen, Sakuda said.

The exchange plan was developed with representatives from Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queen's Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Castle Medical Center, Hawaii Medical Service Association, AlohaCare, Diagnostic Laboratories Services Inc., Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii LLC, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and others.






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