Papal Visit Prompts Advanced Testing in Regional/Int’l Exchange, and Use, of Individual Patient Health Information

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Need to care for visitors routinely and in crisis situations leads to new steps in secure, electronic sharing of medical record data 

Philadelphia, Pa., February 3, 2016 ­–– The visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. this past fall inspired progress on many fronts including, now, international exchange of patient medical information.  A long-sought capability for visitor care and in case of emergencies or crises, this function would permit electronic access to medical records across borders for informed healthcare wherever on the globe an individual needs it.  The visit also prompted set-up of a patient locator service for the region.

In preparation for the papal visit, HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania (HSX) led a project to open gateways for clinical information transfer with partners in Italy and Canada, using mock patient data.  The global exchange effort takes advantage of the same technical standards needed to enable this type of information sharing across the state of Pennsylvania and at a national level in the U.S.

HSX simulated requests for patient information from its member hospitals via its IT vendor Mirth, directing the requests to Dedalus, a prominent Italian healthcare IT and interoperability vendor, and to Forcare, a health information exchange vendor chosen by Ontario — both of which returned mock patient health information to be made available to HSX member hospitals in the Philadelphia area.  Such secure information would provide a snapshot of each patient’s recent clinical activity, including medication lists, disease conditions, and primary diagnoses —and eventually recent procedures —all of which guide providers in prompter, safer, and more effective and efficient care.

“This important project, championed by HSX, has the potential to greatly benefit foreign travelers to the U.S, who may need their medical information available from abroad,” says Leonard Karp, President & CEO of Philadelphia International Medicine.  

“These pioneering tests are laying the groundwork so that when foreign travelers need our emergency services, we will be able to gather clinical information to help our physicians provide better care,” says Don Reed, HSX Board Member and Vice President and CIO, Crozer-Keystone Health System, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

In conjunction with the pope’s visit, HSX member hospitals elected to also set up a patient locator service: the Urgent Patient Activity Liaison service (uPAL).  For this resource, HSX uses admission-discharge-transfer (ADT) data feeds from its member hospitals as a database of locations for patients who have arrived for or completed emergency department or inpatient care at regional hospitals.  During the papal visit, participating medical centers that might receive inquiries from family members seeking the whereabouts of loved ones had access to the uPAL call center, staffed by HSX. 

With uPal available, family members of individuals possibly exposed to an incident whose whereabouts are not known could contact HSX local and regional member hospitals.  These medical centers have the capability, in turn, to query HSX directly.  HSX staff members were prepared to search the ADT data from some 30 area hospitals currently sharing this data ­–– in this case, with special attention to all medical centers within the papal security zone –– and determine if an individual had been seen for medical care.  As a result, family members of located individuals could reach, find, and support a loved one in care. 

“Thankfully, no incidents occurred that required activation of uPAL,” says Martin Lupinetti, Executive Director of HSX, “however our staff and member organizations declared the training and set-up for this first instance of uPAL availability to be an invaluable exercise toward future uses of the service.”

In addition to uPAL, providers and patients are benefiting now from a host of other health information sharing enabled by HSX, providing health data in a timely manner so that critical information can be made available to providers and their patients at the right time and at the right place.  The expanding list of HSX services, and member participation in them, is supporting better, prompter, more cost-efficient patient care throughout the region.

This month, HSX will present on global exchange and uPAL at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting:

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About HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. (HSX)

HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. (HSX) is a non-profit health information exchange organization serving the Delaware valley.  Founded in 2009, HSX facilitates the exchange of patient data between hospitals and insurers within the region.  Incorporated as a nonprofit organization, HSX was formed as a collaboration among major healthcare stakeholders, including health plans and acute-care hospitals across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties to enable the electronic exchange of patient information to improve patient outcomes and to manage and lower healthcare costs.  For more information, visit http://www.hsxsepa.org/.

Contact: Russ Allen, 215 990-9628 (cell), russ.allen@hsxsepa.org