Maine’s HealthInfoNet recently received one of three 2011 Innovator Awards from Healthcare Informatics, a national executive-level publication specializing in health information technology. While the awards have traditionally recognized hospitals, physician practices and health systems, this was the first time an award was given to a health information exchange organization. The award recognized HealthInfoNet for both leadership and innovation in building one of the first and most comprehensive statewide health information exchanges in the country.
A health information exchange is a secure computer system for doctors and other healthcare providers to share important patient health information to support care. HealthInfoNet’s system combines a patient’s information from separate healthcare providers in Maine to create a single electronic health record. This record can then be viewed by approved health care providers to help care for the patient. HealthInfoNet began operating Maine’s health information exchange in December 2008, and it is now widely viewed as one of the most successful in the country.
“Our success hinges on several factors,” said HealthInfoNet CEO Devore Culver. First he explained that while in many other states fierce competition among health care systems has hindered efforts, Maine’s medical community decided early on not to compete on patient data. “Patient information in Maine is seen as a resource that follows the patient, regardless of what health care facility they use,” said Culver. “This is essential for a successful and meaningful health information exchange.”
Another factor he described is HealthInfoNet’s commitment to community involvement and governance. “We have a history of wide community involvement. HealthInfoNet has, from the very beginning, engaged those representing patients, health care providers, employers, payers, and government in design and oversight of the exchange.” In fact, the structure of the exchange and the organization itself was informed by consumer research and input from these groups, most of whom are now represented on HealthInfoNet’s Board of Directors and committees.
Lastly, HealthInfoNet has never chosen a one size fits all approach to its technology. Instead of using a single vendor to manage all technical exchange functions, the organization chose only “best of breed” technical partners to develop a truly unique system that offers the best in functionality, security and future growth potential.
For more information about the award and HealthInfoNet, read the feature article in the February edition of Healthcare Informatics titled ‘Shaping a Trailblazing Data Exchange’.