WV Health Info Network gets federal funds

By The West Virginia Record | Oct 18, 2007

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia will be far ahead of the curve in the effort to coordinate health information networks across the country, thanks in part to a $2.5 million federal contract the West Virginia Health Information Network (WVHIN) received, the network's chairman said.

Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of WVU's Department of Neurosurgery and the governor's appointed chairman of the state Health Information Network, said West Virginia's network was one of only nine in the country to receive such a contract, which was announced by the WVHIN today.

"We are both enthusiastic and proud that the West Virginia Health Information Network has been chosen to be one of the networks to design the Nationwide Health Information Network," Bailes said. "This gives our state and its citizens the greatest opportunity to benefit from the many aspects of the digital medical information infrastructure which should ultimately revolutionize delivery and quality of medical services."

The WVHIN was created in 2006 by the governor's Senate Bill 170. This public-private partnership of consumers, physicians, medical facilities and business leaders is looking at how the state's electronic medical records systems are set up, and how to build a robust, interoperable and affordable system. The goal of the network and the interoperable system is better and more efficient health care for our citizens, the governor said.

"We're making great progress in tying West Virginia in to a nationwide health information network," Manchin said. "West Virginia is leading the way in this field and we are on track to become a national model for health information exchange. It's taking the efforts and cooperation of a broad group of people and I thank them for their work, which will lead to better health care for all West Virginians and the nation."

WVHIN Executive Director Sallie Hunt credits Manchin's and Bailes' leadership in securing the HHS contract. "West Virginia is fortunate to have Gov. Manchin as an outspoken advocate of very progressive health information technology. And Dr. Bailes is an internationally respected leader."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced contracts totaling $22.5 million to nine health information exchanges (HIEs) to begin trial implementations of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). These contracts will create a secure foundation for basic health information exchange between select HIEs upon which more complex functions will be possible over time, Leavitt said. This work will advance the nation toward the president's goal of most Americans having access to secure electronic health records by 2014, by creating a secure foundation for health information exchange that can follow Americans throughout their lives.

"These trial implementations are taking place in communities across America that are leading the way to health-care transformation using secure, interoperable health information technology," Leavitt said. "Trial implementations of the Nationwide Health Information Network will bring us steps closer to a health IT system that will improve quality of care, increase efficiencies in health care, and improve disease prevention."

These contractors will participate in the NHIN Cooperative - a collaborative to test and demonstrate the exchange of private and secure health information among providers, patients and other health care stakeholders.

HIEs are networks that securely connect electronic health records for providers and patients. Together, these HIEs will form the "network of networks," that will form the NHIN. More information about the WVHIN is available at http://www.wvhin.org.

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