Julian Ferris, a physician, said that until last year, when a patient came into the emergency room at 721-bed Mission Hospitals, Asheville, N.C., from another hospital in Western North Carolina, it could be a few hours or even a few days before he was able to get the patient's records from the other hospital.
Now, when a patient comes in from a regional hospital, Ferris only has to sit down at a computer, type in the patient's name and press a button. The WNC Data Link system connects electronic medical records from hospitals across the region through a secured Internet connection, allowing doctors to access a patient's information at the click of a mouse.
Gary Bowers, executive director of the WNC Health Network, said the WNC Data Link system grew out of the vision of the chief information officers at hospitals around the region.
"They have great electronic records systems, but, generally, they don't talk to one another," he said.
The 16 hospitals in Western North Carolina operate a variety of different electronic medical-records systems and, as a result, one hospital couldn't access records at another. Data Link allows doctors to search records and collate them into one format. The system's secure Internet connection contains audit trails to ensure privacy.
The project was funded through a $2.5 million federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant and $1 million from the Duke University endowment.
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