Pennsylvania crafts a health information exchange plan

Hearing an expert say, “Soon any hospital in the U.S. will be able to pull up your medical history” reminds me of the picture phone that AT&T demonstrated at the 1964 World’s Fair.

Let’s just say it wasn’t the next big thing.

There’s been no breakthrough in technology for electronic medical records. Unless Google has been quietly digitizing everyone’s medical files, there’s been no killer app.

But thanks to the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan, there’s a killer pot of money aimed at encouraging new health information technology.

Of the $45 billion appropriated, about $17 billion would go to state Medicaid programs for electronic records that can be transmitted through health information exchanges, like one now being proposed in Pennsylvania.

On Monday, the Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform issued its draft strategic plan for the Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange. This state-led effort that would enable hospitals and other health-care providers to access patient records electronically. Read the 135-page plan here.

The draft states that 84 percent of acute-care hospitals in Pennsylvania use some type of electronic health records. But only 2.4 percent of hospitals have a system that covers all clinical areas, and only about 20 percent of physician practices had EHR or EMR software as of 2007.

Naturally, there are lots of companies hoping to capitalize on the stimulus-fueled push for health information technology. One of them is Quality Systems Inc., of Irvine, Calif., which bought a local electronic medical records software developer called Clinitec in May 1996.

I mention it because last week the co-founder of Clinitec, Patrick Cline, was named president and chief strategy officer of the company that bought his start-up for $12.8 million. Steven T. Plohocki remains chief executive officer of Quality Systems.

Cline had been in charge of what is called the NextGen Healthcare Information Systems division in Horsham, where it employs about 350 people. It’s grown a lot in recent years, organically and by acquisition. NextGen accounted for 94 percent of Quality Systems’ annual revenue of $245.5 million last year.