Filmmaker Lauds Oregon’s Health Information Exchange Efforts, Encourages Statewide Adoption

A screening of Dr. Kevin Johnson of Vanderbilt University’s documentary, No Matter Where: The Quest to Use Technology to Connect Healthcare, hosted by the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University, showcases barriers, hard-won successes on the journey to build and use electronic highways for healthcare information.

The documentary by Dr. Kevin Johnson highlights how 200,000 deaths each year result from misinformation or no information, and how a quarter of healthcare spending is unneeded with duplicate testing expensive and sometimes dangerous.

Headaches, for example, are a common reason for doctor visits and if a patient had 20-30 head CT scans “that’s enough to give you brain cancer even if you didn’t start with it,” he said.

“None of this is new,” Johnson added. “We’ve been trained to work in a vacuum, to work with uncertainty but we don’t have to.”

Johnson says Oregon was the first state in the nation with state-to-state health information exchange efforts. But while some parts of Oregon – including southern Oregon -- “have access to all types (of health information sharing), some struggle to share information at all,” said Susan Otter, OHA’s director of Health Information Technology.

Coordinated care organizations require primary care homes to share information, which has been a big driver, she said, especially for clinical metrics -- “not just ‘are diabetics getting appointments?’ but ‘how are their blood sugar levels?’”

She believes barriers to interoperability include “good enough solutions” in which providers are “married to fax machines” and find it hard to switch to something new to “vendor shenanigans” not allowing competitors to adjust their documents.

“If you want to see stuff happen, make it easy” by removing barriers around cost, politics and privacy, said Thomas Yackel, chief clinical integration officer for OHSU Partners.

OHSU “went with a system we already had” and used “exchange” as a verb not a noun. “We didn’t want to build an exchange. We wanted to start exchanging,” data where it’s needed, solving a small problem and spreading that wide to prove it works, he added.

Jan can be reached at [email protected].

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