How competing Philadelphia hospitals are closing the information gap

HealthShare Exchange (HSX) of Southeastern Pennsylvania has eased the flow of information in Philadelphia where there are multiple overlapping health systems, according to an article at Healthcare Informatics.

Independence Blue Cross (IBC) and local hospitals created the health information exchange to deal with the problems that arise when patients are treated at various facilities all within the city. So far, 15 hospitals have signed on, and 37 health systems in southeast Pennsylvania have committed to joining. The exchange is funded through participant fees.

They chose not to go the usual route for HIEs, according to Healthcare Informatics, which is to build a query-based exchange from a central repository because it would be expensive and hard to maintain. Instead, HSX provides a master patient index that links patients to all their physicians and places they receive services; whenever a patient leaves the ER or a specialist, at the press of a button, a discharge summary comes to HealthShare.

The HIE also collects lab results, claims history, diagnoses, procedures performed and more into a .pdf file for each patient, with copies sent to each of that patient's physicians, according to IBC Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard Snyder, M.D., who calls it a powerful tool for the physician to take care of the patient.

The area's academic medical centers are drawing patients from southern New Jersey and Delaware, so providers in those areas have shown interest in joining, Snyder tells Healthcare Informatics. It's also looking at connecting with other HIEs to make data-sharing more effective.

In a letter to legislators this week, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) listed widespread health information exchange among the factors vital to improving care for patients with chronic conditions. It was a response to the Senate Finance Committee Chronic Care Working Group's call for input on the matter.

However, information blocking is a major problem that should be receiving more attention, according to a recent Health Affairs Blog post.

"Achieving the right balance between competition and information-sharing has remained an elusive goal, and federal agencies may need to decide to err on one side versus the other," writes Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Information.

To learn more:
- read the article