PA to get federal $ to share electronic medical records statewide

As the snow falls Thursday, Ronnie Murphy sells umbrellas for a bargain price of $3 near the Market Street subway on 15th Street. (Sarah Schu / Staff Photographer)

Pennsylvania is getting a $17.1 million federal grant to help it develop the infrastructure to enable a statewide sharing of computerized health records. The grant comes on the heels of nearly $100 million in federal funding to a consortium of education and health groups to build a fiber optic network through much of the state for health systems to communicate quickly over the Internet.

The Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange, or PHIX, will use the $17 million federal stimulus grant to further develop a statewide network that will allow patients, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and a host of other health providers share a medical records quickly and securely.

The PHIX “will support patient-centered health care and improve access, quality and efficiency of care,” said Ann Torregrossa, director of the Governor’s office of Health Care Reform.

Torregrossa’s office is in the process of finishing the strategic plan for PHIX. Over the next four years the grant money will be used to “implement” the exchange statewide.

Last year, the three major health systems serving Camden, N.J. joined together with doctors to launch the Camden Health Information Exchange. It is one of five such local projects in New Jersey to give health providers access to electronic medical records, such as hospital discharge summaries, lab results, medications and x-rays.

While a similar exchange is being spearheaded by the Geisinger Health System in central and northeast Pennsylvania, no such program exists in the Philadelphia region where fierce competition among health systems has left doctors to struggle with balkanized medical records.