octors soon will be able to instantly access your test results and other vital medical information, even if the care was provided at another hospital hundreds of miles away.
By this time next year, at least several local hospitals will share patient information instantly with other facilities and physicians across the state.
Akron General Health System, Mercy Medical Center in Canton and Alliance Community Hospital are among more than 50 hospitals statewide that have signed contracts so far with the Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP) to participate in a statewide health information exchange.
Through a system known as CliniSync, hospitals and doctors will be able to quickly access medical records from other participating facilities.
The test results and other data only will be available for patients who agree to have their information shared through the secure system, said Dan Paoletti, chief executive of the partnership.
“We’re a gateway,” he said. “The best way to think of us is a third party that enables the exchange of information.”
Lab and pathology results, radiology reports, hospital registration and transcriptions are among the patient information that initially will be shared, Paoletti said. The partnership also is working with public health agencies to help track potential epidemics.
Quick access to personal health information can be critically important in emergency situations, said Dr. Brian Keaton, Akron General Health System’s chief medical information officer and a former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
“I provide the best care when I have the most information and can rely on it being correct and accurate,” he said.
Akron General Health System — which includes Akron General Medical Center and Lodi Community Hospital — plans to go live with its connection to the CliniSync system within the next six to 12 months, said Dave Fiser, Akron General’s vice president and chief information officer.
Hospitals that sign up CliniSync before 2014 are getting interface development, project management, testing and other assistance for free. The partnership estimates the process typically would cost close to $100,000.
Participating hospitals pay a monthly maintenance fee, based on their size. The partnership declined to release the financial details of the fee formula or an average cost.
The Ohio Health Information Partnership is designated by the state to help doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers switch from old-fashioned paper files to electronic health records.
The nonprofit organization received $28.5 million in federal funding and nearly $5.9 million in state and other matching money to help doctors switch to electronic health records. OHIP also got about $17 million in state and federal funds to develop the statewide health information exchange.
The ultimate goal is to create a national system that will allow doctors and hospitals across the country to share patients’ electronic health records, said Jim Carroll, CliniSync physician liaison for the region.
If that happens, “snowbirds” who spend their winters in southern states, for example, will be able to have their test results, medication list, allergies and other information shared by doctors in both states, he said.
Carroll also has been working with doctors in an 11-county area that includes Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina and Wayne counties to help them adopt electronic health records through his role as director of the Northeast Central Ohio Regional Extension Center.
So far, he said, 949 doctors are receiving assistance from the center to ditch their paper charts.
Two hospitals in western Ohio — St. Rita’s Medical Center and Van Wert County Hospital — have gone live on the statewide CliniSync system.
The Sisters of Charity Health System, the owner of Mercy Medical Center in Canton, is moving forward with connecting Mercy and its other Northeast Ohio hospitals with the statewide health information exchange, said Robin Stursa, the health system’s vice president and chief information officer.
Mercy is scheduled to start sharing information with the statewide system in October for a three-month test period, said Trevor Clere, the hospital’s director of Information Services.
“This will allow the caregivers access to information so they can hopefully not repeat any tests that should not be repeated,” Stursa said.
Other large Northeast Ohio hospitals — including Summa Health System in Akron, Aultman Hospital in Canton and the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals in Cleveland — indicated they are working with the statewide network in the future.
“Participation in a health exchange supports a more coordinated, patient-centric model,” Darby K. Dennis, a vice president for University Hospitals, said in an email. “We have invested heavily in clinical systems over the past six years that allow UH practitioners access to key clinical data for the provision of care. Participation at the state level takes it a step further to allow sharing of key data with non-UH practitioners.”
Akron Children’s Hospital also is evaluating the best way to connect with the statewide health information exchange, Tom Ogg, the hospital’s vice president for Information Services and Chief Information Officer, said in an email.
The hospital’s electronic medical records system, Epic, has the ability to allow clients to exchange data with other hospitals on the system, he said. The data-sharing capability has been used four times in the last month with a dozen facilities.
“Epic reports that they are looking at using their tools to help all the Ohio Epic hospitals access the OHIP system without us having to add another technical access process,” Ogg said. “So we are waiting and will look to see if we want to participate in the future.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.