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Two Texas HIEs Connect for Secure Data Transfer

April 24, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Two of the largest local health information networks in Texas have agreed to connect patients, doctors and hospitals throughout the state, enabling tens of thousands of healthcare providers to quickly and securely share patient health data.

The two organizations— Greater Houston Healthconnect and Integrated Care Collaboration (ICC) of Austin—connecting is made possible by the Texas Health Services Authority’s (THSA) state-level shared services, also known as “HIETexas.” THSA is responsible for coordinating the implementation of health information exchange (HIE) in the state.

Ensuring that patient preferences are honored is a key feature of shared service agreements that are designed to maintain local control of data management. Connecting through a single interface, HIETexas, is a means of providing information under a single legal framework that ensures trust and interoperability, and eliminates the local expense of designing separate interfaces, THSA officials say. In addition to connectivity, this collaboration will provide Healthconnect and ICC with a patient consent management service that determines if a patient has expressed consent to access such information.

“Texas continues to be a national leader in developing and implementing health information technology and secure sharing of patients’ health information,” Texas Governor Rick Perry, who initiated the program and establishment of THSA during his administration, said in a news release. “The secure, electronic transfer of health information between authorized healthcare providers will assist in reducing medical errors and preventing healthcare fraud."

In addition to the Houston and Austin-based networks, Texas has eight other local networks that provide secure access to electronic health records (EHRs) in their communities. Once connected through HIETexas, these local networks also will be positioned to securely share health information across the state, THSA officials say.

“Currently, health information in local HIEs is siloed, so an emergency room doctor in Austin cannot get patient records from Dallas, Houston or San Antonio,” said Tony Gilman, CEO of THSA. “HIETexas will connect these community HIEs so that the emergency room doctor or another treating physician has access to the right information, at the right time. The new suite of shared services for local HIEs allows us to simplify and accelerate data transfer while always respecting patient privacy. Establishing strong local HIEs has been a core strategy in developing our state’s health information infrastructure,” Gilman said.

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