Senate Bill No. 8 passes, setting up Pennsylvania health data exchange
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A bill that would establish the framework of Pennsylvania's first statewide health information exchange was approved by the state House this week, and is on its way to the governor's desk.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett intends to sign it, according to a spokeswoman.
Senate Bill No. 8, passed earlier this month, sets up the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority, which will oversee the development of the exchange.
The exchange, in turn, is a network communications systems that will someday allow doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, insurers and government agencies to share patient records electronically.
The exchange is designed to improve health care by allowing providers wider access to a patient's full health history, and by cutting down on redundant procedures and medical tests.
"This is quite an accomplishment, considering it was just under a year ago that we re-launched this effort," said Robert Torres, state health information technology coordinator, referring to earlier, aborted attempts to launch a statewide exchange. "It also is a credit to the legislators and stakeholders that worked with us and played a significant role in keeping this important legislative initiative moving."
Other states -- including, most recently, Oregon -- already have launched their health information exchanges, or are in the process of doing so.
Pennsylvania's version will be a decentralized, "thin layer" communications system that helps facilitate connections between the state's regional, privately owned health information networks, such as one now being built by Highmark and Verizon, or the joint partnership between Heritage Valley Health System and UPMC, called ClinicalConnect.
The authority board, once it is put in place, will have 15 members -- one from the Department of Health, one from the Department of Public Welfare, one representative of the "under-served" rural or urban health care communities, four physicians or nurses, one hospital representative, one insurance industry representative, one representative of the assisted-living and long-term care field, two consumer representatives, and three representatives of the health IT industry.
Most will be appointed by the governor, from a list of candidates nominated by the affected industries.
On the privacy issue, the bill includes an "opt-out" provision, allowing patients to decline participation in the health data exchange by signing a non-consent form.
First Published June 28, 2012 12:00 am