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Claxton-Hepburn enjoys benefits health information network

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Patients of Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center are already benefitting from a partnership that makes their medical records easier for health care professionals to share.

The hospital recently partnered with HealtheConnections of Syracuse, the Regional Health Information Organization of central New York.

“Basically, it is a community based organization that is bringing together patient records from health care providers to increase the efficiency and quality of health care we can provide to our patients,” said Amy J. Robinson, Claxton-Hepburn physician liaison. “We are the first hospital in the county to undertake this.”

The organization compiles and stores patient medical records from hospitals and other health care providers in eleven counties of central and northern New York to increase the efficiency and overall quality of health care in the region. Patient’s labs, histories, demographic information and diagnostic tests can be accessed by regional health care providers.

“RHIOs have been around for quiet some time,” said James A, Flood, director of information services. “We set up a system where we’re electronically passing demographic information, lab reports, records to this central repository. Many other facilities through Jefferson, Lewis, Onondaga are all doing the same thing. We have created a patient-centric database.”

Mr. Flood said the network will help doctors focus more on patient care and spend less time tracking down patient records.

“I think the biggest benefit is efficiency of care,” he said. “For patients here in the emergency department we have the ability to look into the RHIO and see things like drug allergies or recent lab work. It is going to improve care through the access to information.”

There is a potential time and cost savings for hospitals, too, as fewer man-hours will be spent reproducing volumes of charts when patients are transferred between facilities.

The system could help cut down on patient identification and labeling errors by eliminating some of the reliance on paper charts — even better, it didn’t cost Claxton-Hepburn a dime.

“The RHIO is funded by the insurance companies, it did not cost us anything,” Mr. Flood said.

The hospital considered partnering with another organization that serves eastern New York, but found that most of its referrals are to hospitals in the Syracuse area.

“When they have the need for cardiac services, they are referred to Syracuse area hospitals,” Mr. Flood said. “As we evaluated our decision, the most significant benefit is to set up electronic sharing with those facilities because that is our referral pattern.”

Claxton-Hepburn patients will have the option of participating in the information-sharing network, said Ms. RoRobin Robinson.

“There are different levels of consent,” she said.“If a patient signs a declination form, we cannot access their information even in case of emergencies. If they do not sign consent, their status remains as unknown but in an emergency situation, a physician could access it for that one time so that they could better treat the patient based on their condition.”

The information is stored on servers in the Syracuse area, explained Mr. Flood. All data is transferred through secure connections between hospitals and the servers, which means it is kept safe and private.

“It isn’t running over the public internet, private connections are very important,” he said.

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