The Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange, one of the country's first local health information networks, is expected to be functioning by this summer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The initiative will allow hospitals, physicians, laboratories and pharmacies in Santa Barbara County to exchange confidential clinical information using a digital framework that eventually could be linked to other information networks.
The exchange project is part of a larger effort to create a national database of electronic medical records. The objective of such programs is to develop local networks that link together to form regional health information organizations, which eventually will create a national network. The program was launched in 1999 with a $10 million grant from the California HealthCare Foundation and a $400,000 federal grant.
The Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange "started with the idea that a community could build a secure way to share health care information across all the health care institutions in that community," said Sam Karp, chief program officer at the California HealthCare Foundation. "We believe we are pioneering the development of a workable model for the rest of the country," Karp said.
To address security concerns, patients must agree to be included in the Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange, the Chronicle reports. There are special guidelines for handling sensitive diagnoses such as those related to HIV or mental health status.
Similar projects are under way in Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Within California, similar initiatives are being planned in Los Angeles, San Diego and the Silicon Valley (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/8).