State urges sharing patient information electronically

The Washington State Health Information Infrastructure Advisory Board released a report recommending that Washington create health record banks that would allow hospitals and other providers to share information electronically about their patients.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said the state has a responsibility to ensure that all Washingtonians have access to quality health care that fits within their budget, and using electronic medical records can help keep costs down and improve patient safety.

A number of hospitals and providers now use electronic medical records, but many of the facilities are not part of the same provider network and are unable to share information.

"Instead of several small clusters of providers who are able to communicate, every facility using electronic medical records will be linked together," said HIIAB chairman Mark Droppert in a prepared statement.

The recommendation follows a yearlong series of hearings about health information technology. A 42-member advisory committee of technology experts, health care providers and consumers assisted the 12-member board in its research. The groups were created under a bill passed by the legislature in 2005.

The report includes a set of five recommendations designed to establish a competitive health record bank model, and under the HIIAB recommendations, any data sharing would strictly comply with federal privacy rules.

The full report may be viewed at

—Megan Patrick