Unfortunately, not every state has been fortunate enough to establish robust health information exchange that can cover a state in its entirety. And there are those who would argue that a statewide HIE is not necessary, contending that regional HIEs that match the referral markets are all that's needed. In my humble opinion, both have their place, and much depends on the region and/or referral market. However, when I worked in rural Southwest Indiana, a regional HIE would have covered 150 miles in all directions; this was the distance that many of our patients had to travel for specialized and higher risk services. In that case, a connection to a statewide HIE was the best approach. In an urban setting, this is probably not the case.
After 23 years in Southwest Indiana, I accepted an opportunity to work in Columbus, Ga. The Georgia Health Information Exchange (GHIE), like HIE projects in many states, is working to provide a low-cost, scalable and interoperable infrastructure that will enable any healthcare provider in Georgia to achieve meaningful-use objectives. GHIE is currently delivering their first solution, GeorgiaDirect, which provides authorized providers the ability to securely transmit patient data to other authorized clinicians.
I will be the first to admit that I am just getting up to speed on the HIE activities in Georgia. Hopefully, in a few months, I can share more of what I've learned. I'm reaching out to a variety of CIO friends who have been working in Georgia over the years and to the Georgia agencies in an effort to educate myself on the Georgia HIE infrastructure, and current and future plans. I've also learned that there were some preliminary conversations within the Columbus area about setting up a regional HIE to cover this referral area before my arrival. I've reached out to the other hospital system in Columbus and to Fort Benning about the possibility of us moving those conversations forward.
I'm hoping that my experience in Indiana will be of value in Georgia, but I need to keep reminding myself that my Indiana experience is just one experience and not the only way to address the tasks of health information exchange. Although I've had the privilege of learning from the early pioneers, I still have lots to learn in the realm of HIEs and how they can be leveraged, both on a regional and statewide level.
For now, I really miss my Indiana experience and the efficiency it provided. I'm not sad or mad about things; I'm determined to shine a light on the many benefits that HIE can bring to providers who really commit to it and begin to think creatively about how data sharing can benefit healthcare delivery.
At the end of the day, it's about getting the appropriate clinical data to the clinician at the time that they need it, as part of the provision of care. That's what can make healthcare efficient, and what can help IT deliver on the promise of easily moving data on an as-needed basis, so clinicians can make time-sensitive, well-informed decisions on care. That's the higher standard envisioned for providers, and data HIE needs to make it happen.
Vice president and chief information officerSt. Francis HospitalColumbus, Ga.