Regional health information network under way

Regional health information network under way

FirstNet Exchange, a Tyler-based organization, has received a grant from the state of Texas to develop and operate a secure health information network for 37 counties in northeast Texas.

The state's ultimate goal is to develop a patient-centered network of electronic medical information that can be securely shared among authorized health care organizations and providers across the region, the state, and, eventually, across the nation.

FirstNet Exchange, a not-for-profit organization established in 1996 by the ETMC Regional Healthcare System, will be one of the state's first health information networks. FirstNet Exchange will support and, in turn, be governed by hospitals and clinicians throughout northeast Texas. "This system and others like it across the state and nation will eventually be linked to create a range of benefits for medical providers and patients," said Paula Anthony, CEO for FirstNet Exchange.

"The purpose of a health information network, also known as a health information exchange (HIE), is to share medical information between physicians and hospitals on mutually-treated patients," Anthony explained. She said FirstNet Exchange will allow physicians and hospitals to quickly access necessary medical information that would otherwise have to be faxed or delivered manually. This could include, for example, information on allergies, current medications, recent lab tests and other diagnostic treatments. "An HIE such as FirstNet Exchange has the opportunity not just to speed treatment, but also to ensure that the most accurate and timely information is available to health care providers – wherever a patient is treated," Anthony added.

"Patients whose information is shared via the exchange will have the explicit assurance that all federal and state standards for privacy and security of confidential patient health information will be upheld," Anthony said.

FirstNet was created 15 years ago with the goal of connecting ETMC hospitals and physicians, but grew quickly over the years to provide a data exchange for numerous East Texas providers. Today, FirstNet's stakeholders include 15 hospitals and over 600 physicians, and its exchange spans 21 counties.

Anthony feels FirstNet Exchange will offer key advantages in making the process of sharing health information a reality for East Texans. "Our organization has a 15-year history of making it possible for caregivers in our region to share electronic health data," she explained. "We are excited to extend these services to all providers in East Texas, and to offer the support needed to help doctors and hospitals link their electronic health records to the network."

For those physicians that don't currently have electronic records systems, FirstNet Exchange will also offer a solution set that will help them meet their federally-defined "meaningful use" objectives, Anthony said.

For more information, contact FirstNet Exchange at 800-328-1638 or visit