Scripps Health and Sharp Healthcare are joining San Diego Health Connect, a substantial boost for the region’s health information exchange that soon will give clinicians authorized access to medical data covering 2.7 million county residents.

San Diego Health Connect, funded with $15.3 million in HITECH Act dollars in April 2010, started as San Diego Beacon Community, one of 17 such communities across the nation charged with accelerating use of health information technologies and disseminating lessons learned across the industry. The main technology investment in San Diego was development of the HIE under the charge of strengthening the local health IT infrastructure and implementing new approaches to produce measurable improvements in the cost and quality of care, according to the organization’s web site.

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Scripps Health has four hospitals, 19 outpatient facilities and 2,600 affiliated physicians. Sharp Healthcare includes four acute care hospitals, three specialty hospitals, two medical groups and a health plan.

Scripps and Sharp expect to be live on San Diego Health Connect this summer. Hospital organizations already live include University of California, Rady Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, VA San Diego Healthcare System, and Navy Medical Center of San Diego. Fourteen community health centers and clinics also are live.

In addition to Scripps and Sharp, other hospitals and medical facilities in the testing phase include Palomar Health, Tri-City Medical Center, El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. San Diego Health Connect exchanges more than 200,000 messages daily.

Asked why Sharp only now is joining the HIE, CIO Ken Lawonn responds: “We have always planned to connect to the HIE and have been part of the governance since its inception. Our timing was driven on priorities and other projects that needed to be completed. We implemented dbMotion as a private HIE to connect our hospitals and medical groups and are using that as our connection vehicle to SDHC, so we needed to get that in place. We also had a large project last fall to move to a new patient portal. Finally, we needed time to work out the operational implications of connecting to the HIE.”

A spokesperson for Scripps noted the organization joined the HIE in October 2013, but it has taken considerable time to work thorough integration and consent issues, among others, and to  operationalize the private HIE (dbMotion) which links to San Diego Health Connect.

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