Governor Steve Bullock traveled to Billings on Thursday to participate in the introduction of Big Sky Care Connect; the new Health Information Exchange that proponents say will transform the way that doctors and hospitals can securely share information.

Jean Branscum, CEO of the Montana Medical Association described the all digital online system.

“The Health Information Exchange actually makes the exchange move from a paper based system to getting those records electronically,” said Branscum. “And so that makes it so much easier as a hover bridge in regards to electronic medical records that now can't talk to each other electronically is to really have the technology that bridges that gap.”

Branscum said never before have doctors and clinicians had this type of instant access to a patient’s medical records.

“It makes it possible for that person to go to the clinic office and actually have the record pulled up by that provider, and that provider is going to have the complete record,” she said. “Whether they saw the primary care person in Helena, and then they saw another specialist in Bozeman and they're now in Billings seeing a third specialist, they all got that same information, and so it's a comprehensive record that is presented through the Health Information Exchange.”

Dr. Jon Griffin, past president of the Montana Medical Association proposed a scenario of how the new Health Information Exchange might be applied.

“Imagine a scenario where someone from Billings decides to go to Glacier National Park for vacation, gets injured and is unconscious right now,” said Griffin “When they get airlifted to wherever they go, nobody knows anything about the patient,  such as what are the chronic diseases this person has, or what allergies does this person have, or what tests did this person had, or what medications are they on? That person can't answer those questions.”

Dr. Griffin said the Health Information Exchange can make that information available in just minutes, through a secure electronic network.

“Now, with a few clicks, that information will be in front of that emergency physician who can say, okay, whatever we do, don't give this medication because there's an allergy,” he said. “In addition, we need to be aware of any chronic diseases. So it will be from a provider perspective, much more efficient. It will prevent multiple tests of the same type because those results are going to be there. It really is, I believe something that will change the way we deliver care pretty dramatically.”

About the safety and security of the patient’s information and HIPAA privacy, Dr. Griffin explains.

“One of the things that we were very specific about as we looked at potential vendors is how secure is their system and how auditable it is,” he said. “If someone wants to go in and look at my record, they need to have a reason to be in there, and we're going to know who was in there, so it really is a very secure system. That particularly I believe in a state like ours where we're fairly mobile, it will really make care safer and better and much less expensive.”

Last year, Bullock secured $19 million in grant funding from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services to make Big Sky Care Connect a reality and designated the nonprofit as the statewide health information exchange.

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