Trend: When medical records are stored electronically, the data can be shared by health care providers nationally using current technology.
IBD describes the Connecting for Health project, which created and tested a model for exchanging patient information. Excerpts below.
In November, the Health and Human Services Department awarded $18.6 million in contracts to four groups for development of national health information network prototypes.
The Connecting for Health project was part of one group, which also included Computer Sciences Corp., Microsoft and Sun.
"The power of the Connecting for Health model is it accommodates a variety of technologic solutions," said Dr. Marc Overhage, president of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, on a Feb. 8 conference call.
Participants planned and built a secure network that could be reached through the Internet. For anonymity, they scrambled the data they used — 20 million records for some 500,000 patients. Then they started running tests.
The groups looked at things like how hospital A could find and get a certain patient record from hospital B using only basics such as a name, birth date and ZIP code.
They ran hundreds of thousands of queries via medical facilities that are part of MA-SHARE (the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium), the Indiana Health Information Exchange and Mendocino HRE (Health Records Exchange).
The group focused on trading two common types of health data that often aren't handled well: medication lists and lab results. Shirky says that in Massachusetts roughly 15% of overall health spending is redundant or unnecessary. At times, tests are repeated because a worker can't get access to the original results.
The project suggests that no nationally standardized electronic health records need be in place in order for health care workers nationwide to share patient data and improve care.
There's a government push to develop e-health records for most Americans by 2014, and meantime to develop a network for exchanging medical data. That's a time-consuming and costly proposition — hundreds of millions of federal dollars are going to study and spur e-health.
These new findings are important because they show just how readily a useful network can be put together — with no need for a central database or standard record.