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Electronic exchange could aid health providers and patients
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BY BRANDEE A. THOMAS

bthomas@gainesvilletimes.com

The next time you change doctors, instead of requesting a copy of your records, your new physician may be able to retrieve them electronically.

The Georgia Department of Community Health recently received a $13 million grant from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to create infrastructure for the Health Information Exchange. The exchange would allow health providers in the state to share information electronically and securely, with the goal of improving patient care and making operations more efficient.

Providers with The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville have been using an electronic records system since 2001.

"We have been very pleased with how the system has improved access to information, which is really the crux of what makes patients’ records work well," said Loren Funk, Longstreet Clinic’s chief operations officer. "Rarely do patients see just one provider, and it takes a lot of people to create a continuum of quality health care.

An electronic system helps reduce duplicate tests and provides a central place for information, Funk said.

"The more information we have, the better care we can give to patients," she added.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center also has its own electronic medical record system, which would allow it to tie into a system established by the state department.

According to Joye Burton, community health media relations manager, the exchange is intended for all providers, public or private, that have an electronic medical records system.

The state department is expected to work with a consulting firm along with members of the health care and business communities to develop the exchange.

"DCH is looking forward to working with Georgia’s health care community to create a truly interoperable yet private and secure health information exchange," said Dr. Carladenise Edwards, community health chief of staff and state health information technology coordinator.

The Georgia exchange will be the groundwork for a system that allows health care providers nationwide to share information.

According to Burton, the state health department will submit a strategic and operational plan to the national health department by the end of July, with plans to establish the exchange network by April 2011.

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