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Delaware Health Information Network: Building a Statewide Data Interchange

In September 2006, Delaware became the first state in the nation to begin building a network to connect all major sources of patient clinical information. Established in 1997 by the Delaware General Assembly, the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN) is a public–private partnership to advance the creation of a statewide health information and electronic data interchange network for public and private use. The DHIN, which operates under the auspices of the Delaware Health Care Commission, has contracted with Medicity, Inc. to build the network that will ultimately give physicians immediate electronic access to patients' medical histories. The goal is to give practitioners the technology tools they need to "save lives, reduce medical errors, and manage health care bring Delaware's health care system into the twenty-first century." [1]

According to Sarah McCloskey at the Delaware Health Care Commission, Phase 1 of the project is set to "go live" by March 30, 2007, for a core group of users. This phase involves development of a network infrastructure and training modules for the transmission of lab results, radiology reports, and admission, discharge, and transfer reports via a secure Web platform. The state hopes to eliminate the current system, by which physicians receive lab and other test results through myriad channels including telephone, fax, courier, and in some cases Web portals. The DHIN will work with providers and allow them to decide how they would prefer to receive their information—via fax, e-mail, or directly into the patient's electronic medical record (EMR)—and then deliver the information in that method in real time. The core group includes three hospital systems (Bayhealth Medical Center, Beebe Medical Center, and Christiana Care Health System), Lab Corp., and five physician practices representing nearly 30 practice sites and 70 physicians.

DHIN officials anticipate that, within six months from the initial launch, there will be significant take-up from data providers (e.g., hospitals, laboratories, and radiology facilities) as well as private physician practices. In Phase 2, the DHIN will develop a record locator system allowing physicians to search for patients' clinical reports and results history. "There is a great deal of interest in the DHIN among the health care community," noted Gina Perez, DHIN's project director.

Future efforts include creation of a patient portal to enable patients to access their health information and see which physicians have accessed their records. The DHIN also will seek to make it easier for providers to submit claims forms to insurance companies through electronic attachments, so that claims can be processed more quickly. Eventually, DHIN hopes to create a system for centralized public health reporting, chronic disease management, and clinical decision support.

The DHIN is being funded by a $2 million investment from the state, which is being matched by private funding through the three hospital systems, Lab Corp., and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware. In addition, the Delaware Health Care Commission was awarded $4.7 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality over five years to develop the DHIN system.

DHIN predicts, that in most cases, providers' investment to access clinical information through DHIN will be as low as the cost of a desktop computer and high-speed internet service. The system has the potential for significant savings to providers, patients, and payers according to Janice Tildon-Burton, M.D., president of the Medical Society of Delaware. Burton notes that having current information in real time will lead to fewer unnecessary tests and more cost-effective care overall.

[1] "Delaware to Build First Statewide Health Information Network," Press Release, Delaware Health Care Commission, October 4, 2006.

For More Information
Contact: Sarah McCloskey, Delaware Health Care Commission, [email protected] or Gina Perez, Advances in Management, Inc., [email protected].

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