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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Delaware Shines During National Health IT Week

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DHIN, the Delaware Health Information Network, is the first live, statewide health information network in the nation. Launched in 2007, today it serves all of Delaware’s acute care hospitals and approaching 100% of the state’s medical providers, with more than 14 million clinical results and reports posted each year. DHIN Chief Information Officer Mark Jacobs shares his personal story of the DHIN difference.

Last winter, like many Delawareans across the state, I fell. Some of us fell hanging holiday lights, others fell on the ice; some slipped getting out of cars, others while wrangling children into winter clothing. But no matter how we fell, we had one thing in common: a Delaware-based healthcare system that, through information technology (IT), continues to make it easier to navigate treatment and recovery.

As chief information officer of the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN), our nation’s first and most mature health information exchange, I see the benefits of an interconnected medical system from my office every day. Yet, only as a patient was I truly able to appreciate the tremendous value it has brought and will continue to bring to citizens of our state. While I don’t usually pin people to the wall during cocktail parties to talk about how I fell and dislocated my shoulder, it serves as a good example of DHIN’s significance to all of us healthcare consumers during National Health Information Technology Week (September 15-19.)

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After I fell, my wife and I set out for a New Castle County urgent care center. After taking x-rays, the doctors felt the tests were inconclusive. The way I had fallen had partially obscured the injury on the x-ray, and they felt there could be more damage they could not see. Referral in hand, they sent me to a Delaware hospital for additional testing.

When I got to the emergency department, my doctors needed to review both the report from the urgent care center and the x-rays through the DHIN’s secure network. DHIN-enrolled providers are able to access a patient’s medical record and historical health information, including hospital discharge summaries and test results. Additionally, providers may view the medication history of a patient and gain insight on important medical issues that could impact care.

The ability to retrieve historical medical information and reports with just a few keystrokes saves healthcare providers time, money and manpower. Add to that the ability to review that patient’s x-rays through the same system – technology that, through DHIN, is already being used by several large imaging facilities here in Delaware – and participating providers are able to see – or in my case, not see – what’s at issue.

Since the x-ray results were inconclusive, I went for an MRI and then off to the orthopedic surgeon. He, too, was able to log in, see the x-ray, the MRI and all the notes. In fact, while I was in his office, so could I. Looking at the two images side-by-side on the computer screen, and with some explanation from the surgeon, I could understand the nature of the issue and make a clear and informed decision. I needed surgery, and having confidence in both the information and my medical team, made the decision to have it.

From recovery through physical therapy to follow-up appointments, DHIN connects each participating provider with what came before, allowing for a continuity of care that would not have been possible even five years ago. Today, 100% of the acute care hospitals send their results and reports through DHIN, which functions as an online post office and library, delivering results to medical professionals at the point of care. Nearly all of our state’s doctors and medical practices participate, along with roughly 99% of labs and 95% of imaging facilities.

Today my shoulder is healed and I am back doing the things I love to do. I realized during the process that had I not known about DHIN from the inside, I might not have recognized it as a consumer from the outside. I would have likely gone from one location to the next, thinking how cool it was that my records followed me – and that I did not have to get copies of films or duplicate records. That I’d saved time on the phone and trips to medical offices. That I had just shown up – and my records had, too.

Now I can just say confidently, as I hope you will, that this is the wonder of technology and the value of DHIN. Once again we are the First State – this time in health IT.

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Mark J. Jacobs, MHA, is Chief Information Officer for the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN). Jacobs brings considerable healthcare and information technology experience to the statewide Health Information Exchange.

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