The Wichita Health Information Exchange and three other groups said Monday that they are working to develop a statewide health information exchange.
They hope to have the exchange in place by the end of the year, said Wichita physician Ron C. Brown, president of the Wichita exchange.
A health information exchange allows hospitals, medical practices, labs and pharmacies to tap into a central source of information about patients, such as what tests they've had or what medications they've been prescribed. That can decrease errors and increase efficiency.
The other groups working on the statewide exchange are the Kansas Medical Society, the Kansas Hospital Association and the Kansas City Bi-State Health Information Exchange.
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The Medical Society of Sedgwick County has been working to establish an exchange for nearly two years, said executive director Jon Rosell. The medical society formed the Wichita Health Information Exchange as an independent subsidiary.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act included money to help set up electronic health records for all Americans and to create networks through which the records could be exchanged.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, through its eHealth Advisory Council, has been working to create an overall framework for such exchanges in Kansas.
The four groups said they will continue to work with the state as they develop their system.
Brown said the four groups plan to use a central server that would allow them to communicate through a password-accessed system.
With an exchange, Brown could send — with a patient's permission
—X-rays or lab tests to another doctor, such as a specialist. Or he could receive the records of a patient, again with permission.
The electronic transfer would end fax transfers, the need for paper at both ends and the potential for errors.
Using a central server means that providers would not have to make various electronic medical records systems compatible with one another.
Rosell, who was in the Kansas City area meeting with the other groups and a potential vendor, said those involved represent "the vast, vast majority of all hospitals and physicians in the state of Kansas." With the participation of Wichita and Kansas City providers, who see patients from outside their areas, "we've got reaches all the way to all four corners of the state."