Wis. nonprofit launching health information system

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care providers in Wisconsin will soon be able to easily exchange patient information with a database operated by a nonprofit group.

The Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network, or WISHIN, has the basic building blocks for its database in place and expects to begin adding hospitals to its network this year. The system eventually will give doctors and other health care providers secure access to such things as patients’ medical histories, prescriptions, allergies and test results.

The goal is to help doctors make better decisions, improve the coordination of care and reduce repeat tests.

WISHIN Chief Executive Officer Joe Kachelski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/13VdqwZ ) that he didn’t have a launch date set yet, but that t was “very close.”

Most of Wisconsin’s major health systems have committed to joining the network. In the Milwaukee area, they include Aurora Health Care, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Columbia St. Mary’s.

A goal down the road is to add nursing homes and other health care providers, such as the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, to the system.

A network of 13 hospitals in southeast Wisconsin had been participating in the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange, but it closed after Milwaukee-area medical providers decided they would rather be part of a statewide network.

That experience, however, taught hospitals the value of sharing information, said Jennifer Laughlin, vice president and chief information officer at UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center. It began sending WISHIN information in July.

“What WISHIN allows you to do is access information no matter what the source,” said John Fangman, medical director of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Patients can choose not to have their records sent to the network.

WISHIN was created in 2010, with initial funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Some of the planning was done by Medicity Inc., a Salt Lake City-based company that is creating health information exchanges in multiple states. Wisconsin has an advantage because it’s well ahead of most states in the move from paper to electronic health records.

WISHIN eventually could alert doctors when a patient has been hospitalized or seen at an emergency clinic or elsewhere. That doesn’t happen now, and doctors don’t always receive copies of records from those visits.

“That’s what’s exciting about it to me,” Fangman said. “Everybody wants to do right by patients. We just need tools to make it easier.”

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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