The HEALTHeLINK Western New York Clinical Information Exchange is a step toward Gov. David Paterson's goal of creating a unified statewide system where doctors can access records that are now scattered among different clinics and offices.
"The emergency room doctor who's never seen that patient before ever will have access to their information, their medication history, any lab work, any radiology reports," HEALTHeLINK Executive Director Dan Porreca said.
On a national level, President Barack Obama, during his campaign, promised a $50 billion investment to store patient records electronically. Earlier this month, Obama said he wants all of the country's medical records computerized within five years.
"We believe that New York is setting the standard in fulfilling the president's goal of digitizing patient health records and HEALTHeLINK is an integral component of our statewide initiative," said Lori Evans, the state Health Department's deputy commissioner of health information and technology.
Addressing privacy concerns, Porreca said the electronic files are more secure than paper, since only authorized people will have access to the Web-based system and to a patient's records.
"If it's a paper chart, you never know who's looked at that," he said. "In electronic form, we can track who's looking at what."
As of Wednesday evening's launch, about 500 physicians had registered for the free service, which contained more than 4 million lab results and reports.
The system is not meant to replace existing electronic medical record software now used by some doctors to record patient visits, but it gives doctors without such software the ability to view lab results, radiology results and transcribed reports from hospitals.
"What we're doing is facilitating delivery of information electronically to physicians that are taking care of patients at the point of care," Porreca said.