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California health care exchange to share 9 million patient records online

California health care exchange to share 9 million patient records online

Once made anonymous, the data could also be used for health studies by universities

The California Integrated Data Exchange (Cal INDEX) on Tuesday announced plans to develop a statewide health information exchange (HIE) that it said would use next-generation technology to connect healthcare providers.

The online repository of electronic health records is positioning itself to be one of the nation's largest with the ability to securely share 9 million patient records -- nearly a quarter of the state's population -- among healthcare providers.

The Cal INDEX HIE is expected to be in operation by the end of this year.

"The more doctors and nurses know about a patient, the better care we can deliver," said Lloyd Dean, CEO of Dignity Health, which operates hospitals and other care facilities in 17 states. "Dignity Health is excited that Cal INDEX will help speed up treatment, lower costs, and most importantly, save lives. This is a much-needed innovation whose time has come, and it will benefit thousands who seek care in our 32 hospitals throughout California."

With health information exchanges, health care professionals and patients can access and securely share a patient's medical information electronically (Source: HealthIT.gov.).

Once the data has been made anonymous, academic research institutions may also be able to use the Cal INDEX data for research, such as population health initiatives.

The HIE will store electronic health records (EHRs) with clinical data from healthcare providers and health insurer information.

Cal INDEX, an independent, nonprofit organization, was founded through $80 million in seed funding from Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross. The funds will cover the exchange's operating costs over the next three years, which include supporting the initial integration of approximately 30 large provider organizations across the state. After three years, participating providers and insurers will provide funding to Cal INDEX through subscription fees.

The exchange is being modeled after a public utility, in that Cal INDEX will be open to any health data contributor.

Along with allowing physicians, medical specialists and nurses access to patient data online, the HIE will also offer patients a more seamless transition between health plans or across various physicians and hospitals. It also expected to reduce costs associated with health record administration.

"Cal INDEX is a significant advancement for all Californians," said Priya Mathur, who heads the health benefits committee of the California Public Employees' Retirement System Administration (CalPERS). "The value to patients when their providers have access to complete information about them is better integration and continuity of care and a quality outcome."

Together, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California provide coverage for nearly 40% of CalPERS members, Mathur said.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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