Medical experts are tapping information technology to try to improve health care and contain costs. The region's health information exchange shares electronic medical records in ways that aim to improve communication and coordination.
Daniel E. Porreca is executive director of HEALTHeLINK, a collaborative effort that involves numerous health care organizations. He sat down with The Buffalo News' Brian Meyer for the weekly "In Focus" interview series. Here is a summary of some issues discussed. Watch the full seven-minute interview at BuffaloNews.com/video.
Meyer: We've heard about HEALTHeLINK, but a lot of people may not understand what it is.
Porreca: "HEALTHeLINK is the information highway that we've established here in Western New York to allow patients' data to flow to their doctors, so doctors can make better-informed decisions. There's technology in the physician's office - the electronic medical records. We're about getting data into that from other sources ... We're also about connecting those doctors' offices so the primary care and specialist can communicate electronically on behalf of their patients. So better, crisper, more detailed information - as opposed to faxes that can be illegible."
Meyer: How hard of a sell has this been to the medical community?
Porreca: "It's not a hard sell. What's hard is change. Nobody is going to say, 'I don't want to have more information so I can better treat my patients.' But it's about making it part of the workflow of the office so they can have it become second nature."
Meyer: How many people are involved in this - patients and physicians?
Porreca: "Over 2,000 physicians have signed up and are participating. And that grows every day ... One of the keys to allowing that data to flow to doctors is the patient signs a consent form. We have 410,000, and it grows 15,000 every month."
Meyer: Is there any reason for people to be concerned about their medical records becoming part of the health information exchange?
Porreca: "We're not saying your data is going to be available to anybody ... You are actually allowing access with your consent for the doctors that are treating you. So the question you have to ask yourself is, 'Do I want my doctors to know things about me from a medical perspective that can help them better treat me?' "
Meyer: Where can people learn more about the initiative?
Porreca: On our website at wnyhealthelink.com., or they can call our information line at 206-0993, Ext. 311.