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Local hospitals partner with state agency to boost health data sharing

By , - Last modified: December 6, 2013 at 9:35 AM

St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network are looking to create easier access to electronic health information for both providers and patients, while maintaining a secure web application.

The Fountain Hill-based St. Luke's is using its health information exchange organization, eVantageHealth, to partner with the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority, an independent state agency, to become a pilot organization in the authority's network of community shared services.

Lehigh Valley Health Network, based in Salisbury, is the second pilot. A third, Val-U-Health, is an organization based in the southwest part of the state, said Alix Goss, Pennsylvania health information technology coordinator.

The end result will connect exchanges such as eVantageHealth, healthcare providers and other organizations statewide. These exchanges involve electronically moving health-related information among unaffiliated organizations.

"This is a secure web application that providers can use to access the information," said Brandon Neiswender, senior director of Health Information Exchange at St. Luke's University Health Network. "It will be safe and secure all the time. Privacy and security are the number one drivers."

Neiswender said both health care providers and patients would be able to use a smart phone, PC or iPad to access their health information.

"It's kind of been an evolution of how we use the technology," Neiswender said.

Over the next five months, PA eHealth, eVantageHealth, and Caradigm (St. Luke's health information exchange vendor) will be working to apply the structure and technology capabilities for this process and complete the pilot by early 2014.

PA eHealth is working to meet federal requirements for health insurance exchanges in Pennsylvania, which was awarded $17.1 million under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act to help establish a health information exchange.

St. Luke's received $1.5 million in grant funding to build out eVantageHealth and has at least matched that amount of money itself to introduce it to the community, Neiswender said.

Connecting to the state's network will help to centralize patient demographic management and improve awareness of clinical data sharing among different health care entities, Neiswender said. Both PA eHealth and eVantageHealth offer an opt-out format, allowing patients to determine how their clinical data is shared with providers, he added.

Neiswender said eVantageHealth currently has more than 40 member organizations that are committed to sharing health care data, including St. Luke's main hospital campus and St. Luke's Physician Group.

The data sharing is also for organizations not owned by St. Luke's, Neiswender said.

"We want to make it easier for them to have access to the health information that's required by providers to provide quality of care," Neiswender said.

This data covers a wide range and includes lab results, documents from hospital stays, and immunization information, Neiswender said.

Over the past two years, eVantageHealth has been creating efficiencies for providers by eliminating paper results into electronic medical records technology, Neiswender said.

"Other organizations are starting to build out their health information exchanges but we've been doing this work for two years now," Neiswender said.

The Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority has been using its federal grant money to solidify its approach to modernizing health care in the state, with the ultimate goal of improved patient care, more cost effective health care and overall population management, Goss said.

"The work with St. Luke's is really helping us," Goss said. "We have hundreds of representatives from various parts of the health care continuum. What they [St. Luke's] are doing is proving out the framework for how we are going to be playing together in this brave new world."

This 'brave new world' includes effectively exchanging health care data easily and leveraging that data so consumers are more actively engaged in all aspects of their health care, she added.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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