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State agency to take over functions of Kansas Health Information Exchange

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 18, 2013, at 6:02 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill to transfer the responsibilities of the Kansas Health Information Exchange to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, according to a news release from the exchange.

The Kansas Health Information and Technology Act will go into effect July 1.

In September, the exchange’s board of directors voted to relinquish its powers to oversee regulation of patient electronic medical records to the state, largely in an effort to sustain the program, said Joe Davison, KHIE chairman and family practitioner at West Wichita Family Physicians.

The exchange’s board was started as a result of an executive order from former Gov. Mark Parkinson. It was legally incorporated in 2011 as a public/private entity but received no state funding, Davison said.

“It created the infrastructure, but we realized the major problem was sustainability,” Davison said. “In an effort to keep costs as low as possible and maintain independence, we elected to transfer the function to the state.”

The original purpose of the initiative was to computerize medical records, making them easier for health care providers and patients to access and share.

The administrative cost to run the exchange was about $500,000 a year. A few years ago, KHIE received a $9 million federal grant, and the KDHE acted as an administrator for the grant funds.

Although the original plan was to have KHIE facilitate electronic medical records systems and charge fees to hospitals and physicians for those services, said Aaron Dunkel, KDHE deputy secretary, the actual records work is being done, instead, by the Kansas Health Information Network and Lewis and Clark Information Exchange.

“Without that function, there was no model to collect fees to maintain the office or staff,” Dunkel said. “Since it became more of a regulatory body and policy body … it made more sense to roll KHIE into KDHE.”

Dunkel said that having the authority of the state behind the regulating body gives it more leverage when dealing with vendors, other states and hospital systems.

Although the KHIE board will be dissolved, there will still be an advisory committee of 20 to 30 people with “wide stakeholder representation,” Davison said.

He said he doesn’t think the public will notice any difference.

The exchange’s board also proposed measures to protect physicians in certain scenarios who need to access patient information to save a person’s life, as well as safeguards preventing access to the exchange from subpoenas and searches from attorneys who may be gathering evidence for malpractice cases.

Those measures were included in the bill, Davison said.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6758 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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