Medical records for about 60% of Minnesota's population will be linked in a new data network starting early next year, healthcare industry leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Monday.
The project's architects said the Minnesota Health Information Exchange will be one of the largest electronic medical networks of its kind in the nation, letting doctors call up patients' medication histories and laboratory results at the tap of a few keys.
"It's really hard for a doctor to have a good care plan for you without full knowledge of all the medications that you take," said HealthPartners Chief Executive Officer Mary Brainerd at a news conference in Minneapolis. "This highway will allow the hospital to access all of the databases that have your prescription medication information, access it and pull it together in an easy electronic format."
The state of Minnesota, Allina Hospitals & Clinics system and three large insurersBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners and Medicatogether are putting up $4.5 million to get the project going. They eventually plan to add more patients and data such as insurance verification, disease surveillance and e-prescriptions.
Anticipating criticism from privacy advocates, Pawlenty said the information would be secure. "Nothing will happen without consumer permission or patient permission," he said.
The announcement did not sit well with the Citizens' Council on Health Care, or CCHC, a privacy advocacy group based in St. Paul. In a news release, Twila Brase, president of CCHC, said the plan "was put into law without a full hearing by the Senate, will be the key to opening everyone's medical record. The online RLS (record locator service) is expected to have the names, unique identifying information of patients and location of all medical records related to each patient."
"While the details are not yet known, we suspect that true consent will not be part of the exchange," Brase said. "Our attempts last session to require informed and written patient consent separate from the treatment or coverage consent were repeatedly rebuffed by proponents. Without true consent, patients have no control."
With additional reporting by HITS staff writer Joseph Conn.