Op-Ed: VITL is transforming and improving health care through technology in Vermont

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Vermont's 2015 Legislature has grappled with bills covering many aspects of health care, including health information technology that will have long lasting impacts in our state. As the president and CEO of Vermont Information Technology Leaders, I want to highlight the work that we are doing to improve health care delivery in Vermont. VITL is an independent nonprofit company that is designated by statute to operate the statewide Vermont Health Information Exchange.

The VHIE is a network that securely collects, indexes and makes health information available electronically among organizations such as hospitals, primary and specialty care providers, home health and commercial laboratories.

This means that Dr. Mark Burke, the medical director of cardiovascular diseases at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, can see information from the surgeons at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "With VITL services, I can better coordinate the care of my patients with the surgical team at DHMC and the cardiac rehabilitative health center in Brattleboro. Managing complex transitions of care means fewer re-hospitalizations and improved outcomes for our patients."

Significant development and expansion of the VHIE has occurred since 2005:

The VHIE collects and indexes clinical information from 17 hospitals and over 170 other health care locations.

Today, 135 health care locations receive timely and accurate laboratory results directly into their electronic health record system from hospitals and commercial labs.

Three Vermont accountable care organizations (networks of providers who join together to reduce the per-patient cost of health care) rely on VITL to collect clinical data to meet their commitment to improve patient outcomes.

In support of the Vermont Blueprint for Health, Vermont's chronic disease management program, the VHIE collects information from 84 practices for the Blueprint clinical data repository.

Craig Jones, M.D., director of Vermont Blueprint for Health put it this way: "VITL is poised to move Vermont's health system to a whole new level. For the first time, doctors will have timely access to more complete information to help their patients. The VHIE is also being used to improve the quality of care patients receive in Vermont's health system."

Real transformation is occurring at the point of care with a new VITL service called VITLAccess. It allows clinicians to securely access their patients' medical histories from other providers across the state. VITL has enrolled 875 users and is adding around 50 new users per week to this system. Clinicians have accessed information for over 10,000 patients with VITLAccess. Patient support for this system is strong as well, with 96 percent of those who have been asked saying yes to allowing clinicians to view their information.

VITLAccess gives all clinicians who are involved in a patient's care the ability to see medical information generated by others.

Kurt White, director of ambulatory services at the Brattleboro Retreat said, "Because of the unique privacy issues related to mental health and substance abuse treatment, the Retreat does not send information to the VHIE. However, with patients' permission, we use VITLAccess to view detailed medical history information and this allows us to provide better, more integrated services to our patients."

By adhering to industry best practices and without much fanfare, VITL has created a secure and reliable network that exceeds HIPAA security standards. We believe the public should know about the network and how clinicians use it to improve patient care, so we recently ran an awareness campaign for clinicians and health care consumers to learn more about VITL. We remain committed to a future where health information is secure and readily available when and where clinicians need it so they can make the best decisions possible for their patients.

By John K. Evans, MHA, FACHE, is president and CEO of Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc.


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