N.H. e-health framework approved

New Hampshire has taken one more step toward efforts to connect health-care providers in cyberspace.The state Department of Health and Human Services has received approval from the federal government of its Health Information Exchange Strategic and Operational Plans for the New Hampshire Health Information Exchange Planning and Implementation Project, a massive information technology project creating an electronic network to exchange health-care information among providers.Not to be confused with health insurance or benefit exchanges mandated by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, these plans provide the fundamental strategic framework to connect physicians and other health-care providers through the Internet to pharmacies, hospitals, and possibly public health officials.The health information exchange project, with its roots in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, is a four-year initiative led by HHS’ Office of Health Information Technology to plan and implement a mechanism to electronically link health-care providers in order to share patient information in a timely, secure and confidential manner.Many studies have shown that securely sharing health information electronically improves patient safety and quality of care while driving down cost.New Hampshire received the first 10 percent of a $5.5 million ARRA grant to develop the initial plans. The remainder was to be awarded on approval of the state’s initial plans, said the department.”We are essentially building a business from scratch,” said Dave Towne, New Hampshire health information technology coordinator. “The plan has to be self-sustaining. We have stakeholders from a variety of perspectives working on this.”According to the state, a comprehensive business and communication plan will be ready by early 2011 with implementation beginning later this year.Towne said some of the next steps will be to create a business plan and to seek legislative support to create a public-private oversight committee as well as to broaden what’s authorized in the ARRA grant.Recent surveys have shown the connectivity of Granite State providers to be about 57 percent – which he said is actually “considerably higher” than many states.The first stage in the information exchange network is having an infrastructure through which every provider can transmit a prescription to a hospital, with subsequent stages allowing for the exchange of lab reports and care plans between providers.”This approval is a critical step in the process of building a health information exchange,” said HHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. “This will provide the necessary funding and momentum to continue the hard work necessary to successfully plan for and implement health information exchange capability in New Hampshire.”According to the state, a comprehensive business and communication plan will be ready by early 2011 with implementation beginning later this year. – CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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