Health Care

Doctors seek health data exchange for Sedgwick Co.

The push by a local physicians group to establish a county-wide electronic health information exchange became official on Monday.

Local and state health officials met at the Medical Society of Sedgwick County to begin planning the launch of the local health exchange.

It will be part of the statewide health information exchange called the Kansas Health Information Network, which is a collaboration between the Kansas Medical Society and Kansas Hospital Association.

Ron Brown, a physician and president of the Wichita Health Information Exchange, said he hopes the Wichita system will go live in six to eight months.

"The intent is to move as quickly as feasible," Brown said. "The important thing... is we're beginning to implement what has been conceptualized for a long, long time."

The idea behind the system is to increase efficiency for health care providers, lower the costs of health care, and improve patient outcomes. The system also has positive implications for public health, officials said, including identifying potential epidemics far earlier.

Brown said he treated a patient Monday morning who had been seen in a hospital emergency room over the weekend. The patient had labwork and x-rays done, and received a prescription in the ER.

Brown said with the health information exchange, he would know that information immediately and would be able to see the tests that were done and the results. Such a system could prevent him from repeating the costly tests. At the least, the system cuts down on the time spent by his staff calling and faxing different providers for that information, he said.

Officials from Informatics Corp. of America, a Nashville, Tenn., company that will provide the software and support of the system that also will be connected to parts of western Missouri, said their software will be able to connect the different electronic medical records systems that providers use.

While there are many physician practices, clinics and other providers that don't yet have an EMR system, Wichita physician Joe Davison thinks it's only a matter of time before those providers add such systems. That's because the federal government is providing incentives to providers who add EMR, and insurance companies are beginning to require them.

Laura McCrary, executive director of the Kansas Health Information Network, said her organization expects to have 80 percent of health care providers in the state participating in the statewide health exchange in the next five years.