Monday, April 21, 2008

PA Governor Plans Electronic Health Info Exchange

On March 26, 2008, Governor Edward G. Rendell signed Executive Order 2008-03, on the subject of the new "Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange (PHIX) Governance Structure" (PDF, 3 pages), drawn as another element of the Governor's Prescription for Pennsylvania Program to reduce medical costs and expand health insurance coverage.

The Governor announced the new project in a Press Release, dated March 26, 2008, entitled "
Governor Rendell Signs Executive Order Implementing Information Technology Initiative from RX for PA".

He identified PHIX as "
a framework that will give health care providers improved access to clinical data and lead to safer and more efficient patient-centered care."

“By offering health care providers the ability to electronically share patient information, we will be able to improve patient care and safety and reduce health care costs that are a result of today’s independent information technology systems,” Governor Rendell said.

The Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange – or PHIX – will provide the information technology architecture to support statewide interoperable electronic health records and electronic prescribing by sharing data that is captured at the point of care in a physician office or hospital.

Most doctor’s offices, hospitals, laboratories, and pharmacies now have their own separate information systems. With an information exchange, those entities will be able to share information with various health care providers and other authorized parties for treatment purposes.
Health information exchanges will help to provide clinicians with important medical details about the patients they treat. * * *

The ability for the physician to have access to the patient’s recent laboratory tests, radiology exams, hospital discharge notes and medications prescribed gives him the ability to quickly make the appropriate treatment decisions. Having access to all of the care given to this patient keeps the physician from ordering duplicative tests that may have been recently preformed, thereby reducing costs. * * *

“Giving clinicians access to data about their patients’ care by other providers will result in fewer medical errors and better continuity of care. Less time will be wasted waiting for patient’s charts and for processing referrals. And, reporting of vital statistics and diseases will be more efficient and complete.” * * *
The Executive Order also established an advisory council and other advisory organizations for PHIX:
The advisory council is made up of representatives from state agencies, legislators, insurers, physicians, hospital executives, pharmaceutical organizations and nurses who will advise on IT strategies and issues.

The advisory organizations may provide research, analysis and recommendations relative to the unique needs of the state. The Pennsylvania Health Initiative is recognized as an advisory organization to PHIX.
For another recent press release from the Governor's Office regarding the Rx for PA program, see: "Governor Rendell Says Pennsylvania is One Step Closer to Providing Access to Health Care for Pennsylvania's Uninsured" (03/18/08). For background about the "Prescription for Pennsylvania" Program upon its introduction, see: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "PA Governor Unveils New Health Care Proposals" (01/19/07).

The creation of PHIX was noted on April 4, 2008, by Alice McCreary, Reference Librarian, in a posting on the Jenkins Law Blog, entitled "Gov. Rendell Signs Executive Order Creating Health Data Exchange". She ended by repeating concerns about the privacy and confidentiality of health care information converted into electronic form, per her prior posting, "Online Personal Health Records and the Privacy Issue" (03/04/08).

However, it is cost that drives the creation of the new PHIX program.

In the budget report entitled "Prescription for Pennsylvania -- 2008-2009 Budget Overview", dated March 4, 2008, PHIX was mentioned as one of numerous cost-saving measures:
Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange (PHIX) -- $5 million to begin a 5-year project to create a platform to share patient health care information. Funding will be augmented with investment from health care providers and insurers. PHIX will be the statewide framework necessary to implement such initiatives as e-Prescribing and Electronic Medical Records. * * *
Other, broader proposals to make the health care system more efficient and to provide health care coverage more universally in Pennsylvania are outlined in that report.

That budget report concluded with a page containing a single sentence to make its point: "The Cost of Inaction is Too Great."