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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A First for Illinois - Health Information Exchange Advocacy Day

On May 2, 2012, Illinois will hold its first Health Information Exchange Advocacy Day in Springfield; a day to educate healthcare professionals, providers, and patients on the opportunities for health information technology (HIT) to improve healthcare in Illinois.

What is HIT?
HIT utilizes computer networks to store, manage, and exchange health information, and provides a great opportunity to improve health care in Illinois and nationally. When providers have access to a patient’s complete health information, treatment decisions can be made more quickly and accurately, and duplicate tests can be avoided. These goals can only be realized if the available technologies are adopted and used by the health care industry, a barrier that has been addressed through education, outreach, and funding opportunities.

The importance of HIT to the future of health care in America has gained broad recognition and support, and has even bridged the political divide surrounding broader health reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before enacting the ACA, President Obama took one of his first steps to reform the American health care system when he signed the Health Information Technology for Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) into law in early 2009, as part of the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The HITECH Act aimed to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of health care, reduce costs, and increase overall access to health care by encouraging the use of HIT through the provision of financial incentives for the adoption and utilization of HIT, particularly electronic health records (EHR). The idea of employing HIT to improve the health care system was carried through in several provisions of the ACA which rely on a strong IT foundation, such as those related to accountable care organizations, health insurance exchanges, and government transparency.

What will you learn if you attend the HIE advocacy day?
The goals of this advocacy day are to:
  • Explain the roles of the Illinois HIE and the Illinois Office of Health Information Technology (OHIT) and how the use of HIT will benefit healthcare providers and patients alike;
  • Discuss the current HIE initiatives and legislative efforts; and 
  • Provide resources and answer any questions about HIE.
Kimberly Baldwin-Stried Reich, President-Elect of Illinois Health Information Management Association (ILHIMA), explains further: "ILHIMA and GCCHIMSS, two Illinois professional health information management organizations, are partnering to bring you an outstanding educational session on the Illinois Health Information Exchange (HIE). Whether you are a patient, provider, consumer or health care professional, this event is especially for you! Join us to learn how the Illinois HIE will assist health care providers in Illinois to utilize technology to share health information with the goal of lowering health care costs, increasing patient safety and quality and improving care coordination and population health."

OHIT has already worked extensively in promoting the development of HIT in Illinois, and is integrally involved in the creation of the HIE with the Illinois Health Information Exchange Authority.

"We are very pleased to participate in Illinois' first Health Information Exchange Advocacy Day,” says Laura Zaremba, Director of OHIT. “This event will highlight the tremendous progress that Illinois is making in implementing health information technology to improve health care for patients and help build awareness of this vital work. The health information management professionals who comprise the membership of ILHIMA and GCC-HIMSS have been among the most active participants in Illinois' efforts to transform health care through technology and continue to demonstrate leadership in their sponsorship of HIE Advocacy Day."

The Illinois’ HIE will act as a centralized “hub,” facilitating the exchange of information from different health care facilities, state offices, insurance companies, labs, and pharmacies across the state. The goal is to pull a unique patient’s information from a number of sources and bring it all together to populate a single electronic health record (EHR) for the patient; a complete record of the patient’s health information that is accessible at any HIE participating facility. Illinois is making great strides in integrating HIT into its health care system. HIT has already improved the quality of care in rural Illinois; to read about this please see this month’s Illinois HIE Newsletter for Patients and Consumers, available in English and Spanish.

One lesson that you are sure to learn from the advocacy day tomorrow: HIT is transforming health care, and it is here to stay.

Amanda Swanson
LL.M. in Health Law Candidate
Loyola University Chicago School of Law

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