This year San Diego Health Connect (SDHC), a Live Well San Diego partner, welcomed the expanded participation of Scripps Health and Sharp Healthcare into the health information exchange they coordinate. As a result, more than one million San Diegans have been added to the network that enables healthcare providers to quickly and securely share and access patient records.
Sue Diaz, a San Diego resident, wishes expansion had happened several months earlier. When a friend was suddenly stricken by an apparent seizure, Diaz rushed her to a nearby hospital. When they arrived, the woman was semi-conscious, partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Her husband was out of town and couldn’t be reached.
“Is she taking any medication?," a neurologist who’d been called to the ER asked. “I need to know. The wrong mix of drugs here could leave your friend in a vegetative state.”
Diaz had no idea. No one in the room did.
With the health information exchange system, unless a Sharp or Scripps patient chooses to opt-out of the exchange, participating healthcare providers throughout the county will be able to access patients’ prescription information, previous laboratory and imaging results, known drug reactions, allergies and medical history on-the-spot.
With Scripps and Sharp joining with UCSD in the opt-out method of enrollment in Health Connect, more than 45% of San Diego’s healthcare consumers will be able to benefit from being in the system.
“This fuller participation by Scripps Health and Sharp Healthcare provides the energy for our health information exchange to be more effective in doing what it’s meant to do - namely, aid in improving the quality of care for individuals and families throughout the region,” says Dan Chavez, San Diego Health Connect’s Executive Director.
As the number and size of healthcare entities participating in SDHC increases, so does the likelihood that a doctor will be able to easily access any and all information vital for a particular patient’s care. In many cases, the use of the exchange also facilitates second opinions and helps eliminate the need for tests and procedures to be repeated.
San Diego Health Connect acts not as a keeper of patient information, but rather as a conduit. Requests are sent to a data hub, where pertinent information is assembled and routed for real-time electronic delivery. As a member of national and statewide trust networks, SDHC complies with all requirements for secure data exchange, including those mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
“With this greater resource for health information, more doctors in the area can feel confident that by participating in the network they won’t have to wait for the answers they need to provide the best care possible,” says Chavez.
In addition to Scripps Health and Sharp Healthcare, participating members in SDHC include: Council of Community Clinics, County of San Diego, Kaiser, U.S. Navy, Rady Children’s Hospital, VA Medical Center, Family Health Centers of San Diego, Palomar Health, Tri-City Medical Center, Pioneers Memorial Hospital, El Centro Regional Medical Center and UCSD.