Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says sharing electronic health records should be easier. But it isn’t. Most systems aren’t linked to one another and they don’t collect the same data. Whitehouse told a Senate committee today that Rhode Island’s system for sharing patient data, CurrentCare, and similar systems in other states, could help overcome some of those obstacles.
“If we empower the local health information exchange, if we empower CurrentCare in Rhode Island, they can be a forum for sorting through a lot of those issues without having to get the federal government engaged in doing a national thing," said Whitehouse during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee hearing. "But it’s hard for us to do that when the support for, say, CurrentCare in Rhode Island is so intermittent and weak.”
Federal funding for programs like CurrentCare has dwindled since an initial investment of about $27 million six years ago. But CurrentCare has since enrolled more than 400,000 Rhode Islanders. And the system now pulls data from 78 hospitals, labs, and doctors. CurrentCare president Laura Adams says there are plans to pull real-time claims information from insurers, as well as to develop apps for patients to manage their own health. Additionally, researchers are beginning to find uses for the data (millions of records, including lab results, imaging, doctor visits, hospital discharges, etc.) contained in CurrentCare. The work is funded by Rhode Island's health care community and businesses, with a small amount coming from the state.
The federal government has, in contrast, spent billions of dollars to encourage health care providers to adopt electronic health records (through its "Meaningful Use" initiative). But Sen. Whitehouse says the challenge now is to promote sharing records efficiently.
Some Connecticut lawmakers have been taking an interest in Rhode Island's program after a similar effort in their own state failed to make progress.