Wisconsin governor creates statewide HIE

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle this week signed into law a bill establishing a statewide network for health information exchange. The bill puts into use $9.4 million in HIE money the state received from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and each state is required to create an entity to oversee the allocation of such funding.

"If someone from La Crosse gets sick in Milwaukee, they should be able to access all of their own personal medical information electronically," Doyle said in prepared remarks. "Without it, doctors have to run tests that have already been done, raising both the costs and possibility of errors. Creating an electronic exchange where medical records can be safely shared and patients' privacy rights can be protected is a critical part of reforming health care in America."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin has an advantage over many other states because several large integrated delivery systems dominate healthcare in America's Dairyland, and are far along the path to implementing EMRs. Marshfield Clinic actually markets its own EMR, Cattails Software Suite, and two major vendors, Epic Systems and GE Healthcare, call Wisconsin home.

It could take a decade to build out a statewide HIE, but some say the network could be useful right away if healthcare providers can exchange some bits of important data, particularly in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. "It will be an ongoing project," Timothy Patrick, a professor of healthcare administration and informatics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, tells the Journal Sentinel.

As usual, anonymous critics already are pouncing. "For those of you who think this is such a great idea, just get a chip implanted in your head to include all of your medical and financial records," reads one comment on the newspaper's website.

To learn more:
- read this Journal Sentinel article
- take a look at this press release from Doyle's office