BANGOR, Maine — HealthInfoNet, a statewide health information exchange, went live on Friday, opening a shared bank of patient data to the state’s largest hospital systems, one independent rural hospital, three health clinics and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Internet-based system will allow designated health care providers at any of the participating sites to obtain critical information about patients they are not familiar with whose medical records are housed at another facility.
“If the patient has not been in my hospital before, I can access a lot of critical information that would not otherwise be available,” said Dr. Ehab Hanna, demonstrating the technology in the intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center on Friday.
Especially for patients who are comatose or otherwise unresponsive, accurate information on allergies, current medications, recent tests and other factors can mean the difference between life and death, Hanna said. The system also will save money by preventing unnecessary testing and diagnostic procedures.
In addition, information from HealthInfoNet can be stripped of identifying data and used for public health research purposes such as tracking rates of infectious diseases.
Hospitals affiliated with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Brewer, MaineGeneral Health in Augusta and Waterville, Central Maine Health Care in Lewiston and MaineHealth in Portland are participating in a two-year pilot of the project, along with Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, three clinics affiliated with Martin’s Point Health Care in Portland and the Maine CDC. HealthInfoNet is expected to expand to all providers in Maine over time, and eventually to connect to similar systems in other states.
The nonprofit HealthInfoNet project has been gathering patient data for more than a year and now has records on more than 400,000 Mainers. Individuals who do not want their data entered into the system, which is designed to be accessed only by doctors and other qualified professionals, must submit an “opt out” form to the organization.
On the Web: www.hinfonet.org