Stephens Co. Hospital Joining Health Information Exchange

Stephens County Hospital will soon connect with Northeast Georgia Medical Center and other area healthcare facilities to share information more easily electronically.

Monday, the Stephens County Hospital Authority voted unanimously to join a health information exchange that Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville is starting.

Hospital Administrator Ed Gambrell said the health information exchange will allow participating providers to share medical information over the Internet.

“For example, if we have a patient here in our emergency room that gets transferred to NortheastGeorgiaMedicalCenter, we will be able to transmit and send to them all of the health records of that patient,” said Gambrell.   “Or, sometimes we get patients from other hospitals or there is a patient that was in one emergency room last week and is in ours now and we want to look and see what happened with that patient last week.  In the future, we will be able to do that.”

According to Gambrell, Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Health Information Exchange will eventually then connect to a state health information exchange, which will connect to a federal health information exchange.

Gambrell said this will be a good thing for the hospital and provide many benefits.

First, Gambrell said that it will allow the hospital to provide better care to patients by having quicker access to important information.

Second, he said that having more information could help treat a patient more efficiently, which can result in cost savings.

“In my example of the patient who might have been in another emergency room recently and is now in ours, we might not need to repeat the lab work or the X-rays that were done very recently at another facility, whereas today, we would not know what was done or what the results were,” said Gambrell.

As far as the security of the network and the information put onto the exchange, Gambrell said he is not concerned.

“It is HIPPA-compliant,” said Gambrell.  “It does comply with federal privacy laws.  I would say that is really  not a worry honestly.”

Gambrell said the only cost for Stephens County Hospital in joining the exchange will be a nominal payment to the hospital’s software vendor for setting up the connectivity to the exchange.

A number of other area providers are also looking at joining this exchange, which would cover a 19-county area in Northeast Georgia.

They include the Toccoa Clinic, Habersham Medical Center, and Ty Cobb Healthcare System.