Midwest states focus on EHR networks
A $1.6 million Health Resources and Services Administration grant will be used to create an EHR network to allow six southern Illinois medical facilities to share patient information.

The Health IT Network Implementation Grant will be used to create a patient health information network. The grant is one of 15 awarded nationwide to connect rural facilities. Each of the facilities will use the same software program to electronically exchange patient data.

The Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, a not-for-profit corporation composed of the 50 critical-access hospitals in the state, will provide administrative and financial oversight for the grant, support services to build the network, and evaluation and marketing tools to expand the network.

Meanwhile, efforts to establish secure connectivity between healthcare facilities in Indiana are in the works. The two largest hospital systems in northeast Indiana, Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network, have EHRs in place for their own doctors to access secure information electronically. If a patient is outside either network for treatment, those records are unavailable or more difficult to access.

Indianapolis-based Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), a group that has connected several central Indiana hospitals for electronic information sharing, has been talking with Fort Wayne-based Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE), about connecting northeast Indiana to its network. MIE created and operates Med Web, a system that allows physician practices in northeast Indiana to talk to each other and send information securely.

With the federal government encouraging states to begin developing systems for secure electronic exchange and maintenance of medical record information, 25 states already are implementing statewide health information sharing systems through their Medicaid programs, according to a report by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One RHIO widely considered to be setting the standard for regional connectivity recently ceased operations--the Santa Barbara (Calif.) County Care Data Exchange. Created in 1999, the Californian RHIO ceased operations in December last year after problems with technology and privacy.

The IHIE system is considered one of the most advanced health information exchange efforts in the U.S., according to Health Affairs. It has developed “financially sustainable” services and products, including electronic messaging, where physicians can receive lab and other reports, and is working on healthcare performance products. The system is working with Medicaid to give doctors reports on how well chronic conditions are being managed, and will soon roll out its Docs4Docs clinical messaging service.