If youre allergic to aspirin, avoid having a heart attack where doctors cant access your medical record. Clinicians are sure to prescribe the drug, which will do you more harm than good. The same principle applies for dozens of other conditions in which optimal care for most is dangerous for some.
However, those from Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and Mendocino, Calif., should soon be able to travel between these areas worry-free.
These communities are launching an experiment to share health-related data.
The effort is intended as the first step toward creating a national health information exchange network built on common, open standards.
“You want your medical record to be there no matter where you are.” said Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, the nonprofit organization spearheading the effort.
The Markle and Robert Wood Johnson foundations are providing $1.9 million in funding for the project.
Baird said the projects intention was to establish common policy values for sharing and protecting health data, and then build the technical nomenclature and standards to support those policies. The first actual exchange of data should happen this fall.
Discussion of the NHIN (national health information network) has grown since David Brailer, the nations Health IT Coordinator, called for its establishment last year. His office collected hundreds of responses to an open request for feedback last year and recently announced it would fund demonstration projects related to NHIN.
Also this year, IBM announced it would build a test system to move health information, in this case dummy data, from one network to another.
By one estimate, truly interoperable medical records could save nearly $80 billion a year, largely by eliminating unnecessary procedures.
However, experts have debated how to make such an exchange possible while protecting patients information.
The principles guiding the launch of this network were worked out last year by members of Connecting for Health, a network of more than 100 private and public organizations managed by the Markle Foundation.
The data will be stored by individual health care providers rather than in a common repository.
That way, patients can talk to their own doctors what information can be shared with other providers, said Baird.
Connecting for Health also decided that information will be transmitted over the Internet.
The Internet has several advantages, said Baird and her colleagues at a press conference: It gives patients ready access to their information; it lets projects get started right away, and its current bandwidth should be sufficient for health care needs for the next several years.