HARTFORD, Conn. (Nov. 25, 2019) – The ability of health care providers to securely exchange patient health information electronically is critical to care quality and can be a key tool in reducing health disparities, yet there is no statewide system for sharing health information. This is expected to change in the coming months, as Connecticut launches a statewide health information exchange to allow health care providers to electronically share patient’s records. A new report from the Connecticut Health Foundation identifies pivotal steps and key questions to ask to ensure the exchange’s success.
The report, “Connecting Connecticut: What’s Happening with Health Information Exchange in the State,” notes that a statewide health information exchange has the potential to allow health care providers to electronically access their patients’ up-to-date health information, including in emergency situations, when providers treating a patient might know little about the person’s medical history. Beyond patient care, a health information exchange can also enable data analysis to identify gaps in care and disparities, as well as to make it possible for health care providers to better coordinate care and measure patient outcomes.
The effectiveness of Connecticut’s statewide health information exchange will depend in part on its ability to demonstrate value and achieve a critical mass of participants, according to the report.
The report is based on research that included interviews with key stakeholders in Connecticut and other states that are further along in creating statewide health information exchanges. It was written by Christina A. Worrall and Emily B. Zylla of SHADAC, the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and published by the Connecticut Health Foundation.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Being able to securely exchange patient health information is critical to care quality, addressing health disparities, and meeting the requirements of new care delivery and payment approaches designed to reward providers based on care quality and patient outcomes.
- While some health care providers currently share records with others electronically, some are not connected, resulting in a fragmented system for patient health information.
- Connecticut’s new statewide health information exchange is expected to begin testing data exchange by the end of the year. Once the health information exchange is operational, it has the potential to reduce fragmentation and allow participants to have a more complete view of where patients have received care and of population health in Connecticut, which has not been possible to date.
- The ability of the statewide health information exchange to reach its full potential will hinge in part on:
- Being seen by participants as a neutral player in a competitive health care environment
- Demonstrating that it adds value and provides capabilities that other systems do not
- Developing plans for long-term financial sustainability
- Involving patients and earning their trust
In addition, there is federal funding available for Connecticut organizations to connect to the health information exchange, but the money – $17.2 million – is only available through Sept. 30, 2021, the report notes. It is available to medical providers, as well as other types of providers including behavioral health providers, long-term care providers, emergency medical technicians, and others.
“The ability to securely and easily share patient health information is a critical step toward improving the quality of care for both individual patients and the health care system overall,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “We are hopeful this report will offer lessons-learned from other states and identify key issues to watch for all of us who are eager for Connecticut to have the capabilities a statewide health information exchange brings.”
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