Last week I had a doctor’s appointment at Houlton Regional Hospital, and was given a brochure about HealthInfoNet.  The hospital and its providers are now participating in this state-wide network, in which patients’ medical information is shared on a secure network with all of the providers that have access to it.  HealthInfoNet is connected to 27 of Maine’s 39 hospitals and 294 physician practices across the State.

HealthInfoNet was incorporated in 2006 and over the next three years, it built its network and went live across the State of Maine.  The goal of the network is to improve care for Maine residents by making access to health history easier.  For instance, in an emergency, the ER personnel can access the network to make better informed and faster decisions about your care.  Specialists can now access your records, and even see imaging results, when you are referred to them by your primary care physician – without you having to transport all of your records or wait for the providers to communicate with each other.  The network also reports certain illnesses to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to protect public health.

It is anticipated that all Maine hospitals will be participating in the network by the end of 2013, due in part to a change in Medicare policy in which Medicare will pay less to providers who do not participate in an information network, starting in 2015.

HealthInfoNet is an independent nonprofit organization based in Portland.  It is funded through charitable foundations, government grants and healthcare providers.  Participation in the network by patients is optional, so you can decide when you are presented with this information at your next visit to the hospital or doctor whether it is worthwhile for your family.  For more information, visit their website.