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States roll out ONC-approved IT plans


By Jennifer Lubell
Posted: June 10, 2010 - 12:00 pm ET
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Maryland, New Mexico and Utah have received the green light from HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to move forward with a plan to implement a functioning health information exchange.

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The three states are working to streamline the transfer of electronic health data among hospitals, physicians and patients through these exchanges.

In Maryland, the state's healthcare commission has chosen a not-for-profit health IT organization, the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients, to develop the statewide health information exchange. CRISP has been awarded nearly $10 million in state funds by the ONC to build the exchange in phases, beginning with the delivery of a range of clinical information, including lab results, radiology and other transcribed reports. CRISP will be using the network services of Axolotl Corp., a San Jose, Calif., health IT company, for the state's exchange technical infrastructure.

On its website, CRISP announced that it is selecting hospitals to be early participants in the statewide health information exchange. “Early participation means that a hospital is willing to commit resources to enable a defined set of inbound and outbound interfaces, sign a participation agreement and conduct other key activities,” the organization stated. “It is important that early participants demonstrate both technical readiness and a willingness and ability to commit resources to the implementation process.”

To date, Maryland and its partners in academia and the not-for-profit sector have secured nearly $25 million in stimulus funds for the expansion of health IT use and development of the health IT workforce.

“Health IT is a vital component of health reform,” Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said this week in announcing HHS' approval of its health IT exchange. “Effective implementation of health IT will ensure that clinicians have the right information available at the right time. It will improve treatment, prevent errors and reduce healthcare costs. It will help us gather information to improve disease surveillance, improve our understanding of what works in the real world and shape practice guidelines. In many ways, it will help bring the healthcare profession entirely into the 21st century.”

He added: “Maryland has emerged as a national leader in healthcare, and we intend to tap our dynamic small- and minority-owned business community to ensure that we lead the way on health information technology as well.”

New Mexico this past winter received about $7 million to develop its health information exchange, “which has been in preproduction mode for the past year,” said Bob Mayer, chief information officer for the New Mexico Health Department, in an interview.

The exchange will work in tandem with the state's regional extension center, an entity charged with helping individual providers install electronic health-records systems. “You can't exchange information unless you have the electronic health record,” Mayer said. The goal is to reach out to 1,000 providers in the next two years.

Utah state officials weren't available for comment at deadline.

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