South Peninsula Hospital joins statewide patient data network

South Peninsula Hospital now shares patient data on the statewide Health Information Exchange, which allows providers to easily access a patient’s electronic health records in the case of referrals, specialty consulting and emergencies, according to the Alaska eHealth Network website.

Erin Aklestad, an Alaska eHealth Network account manager, is visiting Homer to present what the exchange means for the Homer healthcare community to health clinics today.

The concept of the exchange is a provision of the Affordable Care Act, but providers have to transmit data to a regional hub in their state, said SPH Communications Liaison Derotha Ferraro. Many hospitals contributed financially to fund the Alaska regional hub, Ferraro said.

Though the Health Information Exchange is new, the concept of medical records stored on a web portal that can be accessed outside the healthcare facility is not, Ferraro said. Many healthcare providers have transitioned from paper records to electronic healthcare records already.

“It’s pretty standard that our health records are on a web-based system,” Ferraro said. “There are a lot of privacy measures that are already in place for facilities so this network didn’t have to necessarily reinvent the wheel. I know for (SPH), we use encryption on a lot of things so there’s that level as well.”

The exchange also encrypts clinical data when transporting it from one provider to another so that the only person who can access and view patient data is their physician or designated staff using a decryption key, according to the Alaska eHealth Network website.

The difference between the existing means of storing health records and the exchange is that a broader network of healthcare providers would be able to access the records when necessary. For instance, if a patient of SPH from Homer traveled elsewhere in the state and had a medical emergency, a doctor with access to the exchange would be able to look up the person’s medical records, which could prevent complications with previously existing conditions or drug allergies, according to the Alaska eHealth Network website.

Patients are able to opt out if they do not wish for their data to be shared on the exchange and those who wish to do so should talk to their healthcare provider, Ferraro said.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.

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