New Wisconsin data network breaking through old barriers

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Wisconsin will soon launch an innovative health information exchange program.
Wisconsin will soon launch an innovative health information exchange program.

In what may be a sign of things to come, Wisconsin nursing homes, hospitals and other providers will soon have the ability to exchange patient information with a database operated by a nonprofit organization.

The Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network already has basic pieces for its database. WISHIN has plans to add hospitals to the network in 2014. When completely up and running, the WISHIN network will give providers in any related setting access to important medical information about patients, including prescriptions, allergies, test results and medical histories.

While a launch date had not been established for the initiative yet, it was “very close,” said Joe Kachelski, CEO of the effort.

One reason he was optimistic was that most of the state's larger health systems have already agreed to join the network. Once that is established, nursing homes will be added, along with other provider organizations, he said.

To address possible privacy issues, patients can opt to not have their records sent to the network.

The initiative was created three years ago, thanks to initial funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Medicity Inc., a Salt Lake City-based company that is creating health information exchanges, did some of the initial planning. 

Backers are cautiously optimistic that other states might take a similar route to health data integration, as the model is fairly straightforward.

The program is likely to attract strong attention from long-term care operators nationwide. Utilizing electronic health information that can move easily among various settings will be a core requirement for those seeking to join accountable care organizations, according to industry analysts. 

The Wisconsin program will use the Direct Project, a secure clinical messaging protocol, to jumpstart its health information exchange effort.