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MURRAY — Intermountain Healthcare joined four other leading health care systems in the country Wednesday to announce a collaborative effort to exchange electronic clinical data.

The Care Connectivity Consortium will allow the five systems — including Intermountain in Utah; Kaiser Permanente in California; Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona; Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania; and Group Health Cooperative in Washington state — to share patient consented electronic health data securely, and provide a model for connected care across the U.S.

"In this day and age, our patients are nomadic and their care is too important to rely on carrier pigeons or to rely on the occasional medical card that is tucked away in the back corner of a wallet," said Dr. Todd Allen, director of research for emergency medicine at the Intermountain Medical Center.

He said minutes matter when dealing with emergency situations that could mean life or death for a patient.

Recently, Allen provided care for a woman who had previously been treated at a facility owned by another organization. In what would be a 15-minute transaction within the new collaboration, it took six hours to receive medical information necessary to provide appropriate care for the woman, Allen said.

"The faster we can act, the better patients are going to do," he said, adding that the current process to obtain a medical records release of information is "far too complicated and convoluted" to be beneficial to patients.

The "historic collaboration" of big-name organizations is one Marc Probst, Intermountain's chief information officer, hopes will inspire others to join.

"We believe that through this process, we can enhance the standards required for this clinical care and really help the share of clinical information across the country," he said.

Probst said it is the "first step toward greater collaboration in the exchange of clinical information."

Although Intermountain has been sharing electronic information internally for 20 years, widespread electronic medical records were nearly nonexistent before the recent push by the Obama administration's health care reform.

Money is being spent to upgrade systems to accommodate electronic exchanges such as the one involving Intermountain.

"It can be complicated to develop information systems to enhance bedside care in real-time," Allen said. "But we are up to the challenge."

The five groups will work together to develop a standardized and sustainable approach to be able to exchange clinical information upon patient consent, while preserving strict privacy standards.

The process should be under way sometime later this year.

Mayo Clinic's President and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy said each organization has experienced situations where such data would have been helpful "to develop new knowledge, facilitate decisions, improve safety, efficiency and coordination of care, and offer the best treatment for the patient."

"This collaboration will demonstrate what is possible when a unique union of forces is brought to bear on this multifaceted challenge: realizing the promise of health information technology for patients across the nation," Noseworthy said.

Other health care organizations in Utah are not involved in this particular collaborative, but Allen said similar partnerships are happening all over the nation, including some within the state to enable the exchange of information across the various platforms.

Email: wleonard@desnews.com