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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 1, 2010

Project will link health care providers

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

The recently formed North Hawaii Health Information Exchange hopes to begin connecting physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and others by mid-summer in what would be the state's first such exchange.

The organization last week signed an agreement to use an information exchange and portal developed by Wellogic of Cambridge, Mass., and hopes to have the system operating between health care providers, insurers, laboratories and others in the Waimea area of the Big Island by June or July.

"This is a grassroots effort to make available, for the first time, a wealth of clinical information to patients and their physicians at the point of care," said Dr. William Park, chief of staff for the North Hawaii Community Hospital.

Using electronic medical records and then providing a network through which health care providers can access this information is being touted as one of the ways to improve patient care while reducing costs. For example, emergency room personnel would have immediate and secure access to patients' medical histories through the system.

That could lower the number of adverse drug reactions while cutting redundant laboratory testing.

"It's laying an added layer of security," said Peter Kennedy, a physician liaison with the Hawaii Independent Physician's Association, which is involved in the project along with the North Hawaii Community Hospital. "We think it's the direction health care is heading right now."

Kennedy said North Hawai'i County is an ideal place to start an information exchange because most of the area's 30 or so physicians already use electronic medical records in their practices. Some private groups such as Kaiser Permanente and the Maui Medical Group also use information technology to share information within their practices and improve care, Kennedy said.

He said the North Hawaii group has privately funded the effort but hopes to see the effort expanded to Hilo and then to Kona.

"Leveraging information technology to connect all the Big Island physicians, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and insurance companies is essential to this effort," Park said.

The North Hawaii Health Information Exchange also hopes to be part of a larger effort to create a secure statewide exchange under the auspices of the Hawaii Health Information Exchange.

That nonprofit set up by health care providers was awarded $5.6 million in federal funding in February to advance use of health information technology.