A New Role for HIEs: Exchanging Specimens

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The Delaware Health Information Network, a statewide health information exchange that also serves parts of Maryland, is offering a novel new program—the exchange of medical specimens among hospitals and researchers.

The idea is to repurpose liquid and solid clinical laboratory specimens, such as tissues, plasma, serum, blood and urine, so that hospitals no longer destroy leftover specimens but make them available—with patient consent—to medical research programs.

Union Hospital in Elkton, Md., is the first hospital to commit to the program, and will start with liquid specimens. Delaware Health Information Network serves eight other hospitals and will approach them and local laboratories about joining the program, says Randy Farmer, COO of DHIN.

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Also participating in the program is iSpecimen, a supplier of clinical specimens. DHIN will de-identify the specimens, but the clinical data of consenting patients will be available to researchers.

Specimens and their associated clinical data will be searchable via an iSpecimen technology platform and when matches are made, the platform will instruct lab personnel at provider sites to pick up and ship specimens to the appropriate research customers.

Researchers will pay iSpecimen for the matching service, iSpecimen will pay a transaction fee to DHIN, and the health information exchange will send 75 percent of the transaction fee back to the donating hospital, Farmer says.

The program, Farmer adds, is another example of health information exchanges providing efficiencies to providers, while at the same time supporting research.

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