A new nonprofit organization headquartered in Peoria celebrated its grand opening on January 26, 2012. Its goal: to change the practice of medical records exchange as we know it.
In 2010, a survey published by GfK Roper for Practice Fusion revealed that the average American sees 18 different physicians in his or her life. For patients over 65, the number was considerably higher, with patients reporting relationships with more than 28, including primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers.
We live in a world that is increasingly mobile and electronic. In a time when you can easily slip an ATM card into any machine around the world and instantly connect to your financial record, there is no equivalent for your medical record. Records are still routinely faxed, mailed or hand-carried from appointment to appointment. Healthcare organizations in the same town often interact as competitors, rather than as collaborators working on a patient’s behalf.
The initiation of Central Illinois Health Information Exchange (CIHIE, pronounced “see-high”) marked a milestone for the organization, which believes that patient data should follow the patient so that healthcare providers can deliver the best care possible.
At the grand opening, the contributions of 13 local organizations were acknowledged in launching CIHIE’s software solution, called allcharts™, including:
- Advocate Bromenn Medical Center, Normal
- Community Health Improvement Center, Decatur
- Decatur Memorial Hospital, Decatur
- Easter Seals of Peoria & Bloomington-Normal & Decatur
- Heartland Community Health Clinic, Peoria
- Human Services Center, Peoria
- Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Peoria
- Methodist Medical Center of Illinois, Peoria
- OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria
- Proctor Hospital, Peoria
- St. Mary's Hospital, Decatur
- St. Mary's Hospital, Streator
- University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
allcharts’ Role in Patient Care
The idea and initial support for allcharts emerged from planning discussions with healthcare providers from across a 20-county region in central Illinois in late 2009. The problems people wanted to fix were echoed by providers and patients alike:
- Patients show up for appointments before transferred paperwork.
- Clinicians ask questions requiring details that patients can’t remember.
- It is time-consuming to ask the same questions over and over and over.
- Tests and procedures are duplicated or delayed.
- Insurance companies reject claims because they’ve already paid for the work elsewhere.
And the list goes on…but the bottom line is that healthcare communication simply isn’t effective for providers or patients.
allcharts is a fairly simple concept. When a patient sees a participating doctor and mentions he or she has been seen elsewhere, a clinician is able to instantly retrieve the records from the other provider in real time by requesting that information through the software, rather than having to call the other office and wait for records to be faxed or mailed. The result is a more complete picture of the patient’s care and a more efficient delivery of important clinical communication. The right decisions can now be made without delay.
How CIHIE Works
One of the best examples of where health information exchange will make a difference is in the emergency room, where it is easy to imagine a patient arriving in medical crisis, completely unable to communicate. A quick search of the CIHIE could reveal that the patient is likely having complications from a recent procedure performed elsewhere.
In addition to the ability to instantly look up key information such as medications, allergies, labs and procedures, the software also provides clinicians with a secure way to send messages to one another to aid in coordination of patient care. For example, when a patient is discharged from the hospital, a discharge planner can send a quick message to the patient’s primary care physician regarding the hospitalization to make sure the office knows that the patient should be returning for important follow-ups. Similarly, a primary care physician may send a referral to a specialist through secure clinical messaging, and the specialist can send their consultation report and recommendations back the same way.
CIHIE’s service area currently covers 20 counties, including the metropolitan areas of Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Decatur and Champaign-Urbana. Implementation is underway with the 13 initial organizations, with adoption spreading virally across providers who routinely share information today in a paper-based environment. For them, making the switch is relatively easy and eliminates the time they spend moving information via fax, phone and mail.
Central Illinois has already established a reputation as the home of strong healthcare providers. Over the past several years, many of our local hospitals and clinics have embarked on the journey to move from paper to electronic records. Their commitment to the transition is part of a larger national movement, a goal established all the way back under the Bush administration to provide every American with an electronic health record by 2015.
With this national focus and in light of the early planning funds provided by the State of Illinois, many have assumed that the health information exchange efforts here in central Illinois are being government-subsidized or grant-funded, but the launch of CIHIE actually represents a local investment of non-taxpayer dollars. Securing private funding for the CIHIE launch was no small feat in the midst of an economic downturn, but local hospitals and clinics felt that the investment was justified, given the potential for savings. In financially tight circumstances, organizations have to get creative about where they might be able to tighten the belt. Wasted staff time, uncompensated tests or procedures and medical errors can add significant operational costs, warranting a close inspection of CIHIE as a remedy.
New Today, Business As Usual Tomorrow
Like pay-at-the-pump gasoline, smart phones and debit cards, the health information exchange initiative is making a splash today as the software feels different and innovative. However, providers fully expect that this new way of transmitting records across organizational boundaries will simply become the normal way of doing business in the future. Flash forward a few years, and it is quite likely we’ll all wonder how we ever survived without instant, secure, electronic data exchange. iBi