Massachusetts is the first state to receive federal funding to create what officials are calling a health information exchange.
The 17 million dollar grant — from the federal agency that oversees Medicaid — will pay for a technology company to create an integrated health records system across the state. Officials say the health exchange — sometimes called a highway — will link doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions across the state so patient information will be more easily accessible between providers. Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Judy Ann Bigby says the exchange will not create one standardized system of electronic medical records, but rather devise a way to link many individual systems to each other in a more streamlined way than email or fax. While some providers have complained of the added work and expense of transferring paper records onto computers, bigby says the new exchange will be user friendly.
The new health exchange is mentioned in the cost-control bill that governor deval patrick is expected to sign, but Bigby says her office is not yet sure whether it will be an optional service or a mandate.