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Two Kansas health information exchanges to link, improving access

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, at 6:43 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, at 10:01 a.m.

The two electronic health information exchange networks that operate in Kansas have agreed to connect, which will allow medical providers access to patients records statewide.

The Kansas Health Information Network, which provides electronic medical record services to providers and hospitals throughout Kansas has reached an agreement with the Lewis And Clark Information Exchange, which is primarily used by providers in the Kansas City metro area and parts of Missouri.

The agreement comes before a Dec. 31 deadline for connecting that the networks had to meet if they didn’t want to lose about $1 million in federal funding.

Laura McCrary, executive director of Topeka-based KHIN, said she hopes the two networks will be ready to connect the week after Thanksgiving.

“We should meet (the deadline) without any problem,” McCrary said.

Mike Dittemore, executive director of LACIE, said both exchnages were being careful about testing the connection and making sure it works before it “goes live.”

“The last thing either of us wants to do is turn on an exchange connection that doesn’t work well,” Dittemore said. “There’s already enough in the news about health-related websites that don’t work well or do what they’re supposed to do.”

By connecting the networks, the two groups hope that providers across the state will have access to more patient records, especially if patients are sent to Kansas City for care.

Dittemore said the connection will also be helpful for people who may have an illness or accident while traveling, or who are students from another part of the state.

“We know that health care is usually local. It definitely varies but most people receive the majority of their health care within a 50 to 75 mile radius,” Dittemore said.

“But the data is global. It’s going to give more holistic information, especially for the provider in how they can work really wherever. They will be able to pull that information into an aggregated single record.”

LACIE was started in 2009 by Heartland Health, a health system based in St. Joeseph, Mo., that divested itself from the exchange in April.

“It became a trust issue” for others hospitals to work with LACIE since Heartland was a competitor, Dittemore said, and now the network can grow and be more sustainable.

LACIE has access to more than 1.8 million records, Dittemore said.

In August, KHIN hit more than a million patient records, McCrary said. It continues to add about 50,000 records a month.

This is not the first out-of-state network with which KHIN has connected. In January, it connected with the Nebraska Health Information Initiative and the Missouri Health Connection.

KHIN is finalizing its new patient portal that will allow patients to have access to their own personal health records and securely communicate with health care providers via email.

The network is also finalizing its vendor to allow providers to share X-ray images, McCrary said. Current electronic health record systems make it difficult to share such images.

The move to electronic records was built into the Affordable Care Act. Supporters say electronic records will reduce the number of duplicated tests and provide health care providers with more complete information about patients.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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