HEALTHeLINK: 2017 Report to the Community


HEALTHeLINK: Its Working.

As HEALTHeLINK closes out its 11th year, we celebrate long-standing, shared collaboration among hospitals, physicians, health plans, and other health care providers that facilitate the secure exchange of clinical information. This exchange improves quality of care, enhances patient safety, and mitigates increasing health care costs across Western New York and beyond through the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY). It all adds up to more timely and effective treatment at the point of care. Read on to understand the impact.


A message from our board chair.

David Scamurra

You are in an exam room waiting for your doctor to return after the staff gathers your lab results.

Or you are with your mother at her primary care visit. When reviewing her two-page medication list, you find her doctor is unaware of several medications that have been added by other specialists and didn’t realize that previously prescribed medications had been discontinued.

Something like this has likely happened to each of us. These events reflect the poor organization and structure of the current health care system’s information highway. While much of health care reform debate centers on developing new payment systems, HEALTHeLINK is working directly with providers and payers to address operational issues and truly reform health care.

We have completed studies that illustrate the positive impact HEALTHeLINK usage has on the cost and quality of local emergency room visits. HEALTHeLINK is currently sponsoring an area-wide taskforce to address the issues of patient medication history and lack of coordination among providers in keeping these medication lists accurate and up-to-date. A patient’s medication history should not be left to guesswork or to a family member’s memory. In addition, we are working with the University at Buffalo School of Management to study workflow patterns in physicians’ offices and develop ways HEALTHeLINK can enhance productivity and efficiency and make future health care visits more productive.

HEALTHeLINK is working today for our local health care system, but we know more work is needed to reach our full potential. While HEALTHeLINK has tallied more than one million consented patients, we still need all residents to give their consent and for those who have consented to encourage their providers to use HEALTHeLINK.

We also steadily add to the number of providers using HEALTHeLINK and those who are utilizing it more and more each day. We continue to work diligently to improve the system and expand its uses. To our participants and those providers who are not active HEALTHeLINK users, I encourage you to explore how to incorporate this technology into your routine practice.

Finally, to our local business community, we ask that you familiarize yourself with the competitive advantage HEALTHeLINK brings to Western New York for further promotion of our area to attract new talent and new business.

HEALTHeLINK is key to reforming health care, and Western New York is fortunate to be ahead of the curve!

David Scamurra, MD
Chair, HEALTHeLINK Board of Directors
Pathologist, Eastern Great Lakes Pathology/X-Cell Laboratories of WNY

A message from our executive director.

Daniel E. Porreca

After spending the last decade building our health information exchange, we continue to be energized and passionate about the positive impact we are having on patient care and the enormous opportunities that are on the horizon. We continue our efforts to support those who are frequent users and educate those who are not yet in that category to enhance our community strategies and the strategies of New York State Department of Health and New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) as part of the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY).

In 2017 we reached one million uniquely consented patients, which was a very significant milestone and a true community effort. Patients hold the key to enabling their treating providers to have a more complete picture of their medical records, and the provider organizations that asked patients for their consent declarations were a critical part of this achievement.

We continue to learn more and better ways to serve the community. When a criminal cyberattack took down ECMC’s network, we were an asset in helping ensure that clinical operations could continue to run safely by making their patients’ data available during the system recovery effort.

We continue to build on our current offerings, supporting care coordination and care transitions by working with practices on the two-way exchange of patient information and delivering alert notifications for hospital admissions and discharges. HEALTHeLINK remains focused on improving the quality of data, closing the gaps for data being submitted to us, and exploring how best to serve our community for population health measures and reporting. Value-based payment is coming (and in some ways, it’s already here) and HEALTHeLINK is in a great position to support the effective and efficient generation of quality measures.

Our involvement with the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) from its inception has proven to be a very valuable opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with 60 other community health information exchange (HIE) organizations from across the country. SHIEC provides HIEs a platform for advocacy at the federal level, which is critical for ensuring the value of HIEs is recognized as legislation is passed – something that has been nonexistent to date.

We hear stories every day and see more and more evidence as to how HEALTHeLINK is working in support of better, more-efficient patient care. That drives the entire HEALTHeLINK team to continue to find more ways for leveraging the investments made to provide even more value to the community. Thank you for your continued support, utilization, and overall growth of HEALTHeLINK!

Daniel E. Porreca
Executive Director, HEALTHeLINK

Meet the people leading the way for HEALTHeLINK – our Board of Directors.

HEALTHeLINK Board of Directors.

David Scamurra, MD – Chair

Pathologist, Eastern Great Lakes Pathology/X-Cell Laboratories of WNY

Art Wingerter – Vice Chair

President, Univera Healthcare

Anthony J. Billittier IV, MD, FACEP

Emergency Physician, UBMD – Emergency Medicine

Chief Medical Officer, Millennium Collaborative Care

Michael Cain, MD

Vice President, Health Sciences Dean, School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

Michael W. Cropp, MD

President & Chief Executive Officer, Independent Health Association

Andrew L. Davis, MBA

Chief Operating Officer, Erie County Medical Center

Cletis Earle

Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Kaleida Health

Michael F. Galang, DO

Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Catholic Health System

Ann Marie Odrobina

Administrative Vice President; Manager, Employee Benefits Administration, M&T Bank

Paul Pettit

Public Health Director, Genesee County & Orleans County Health Departments

Thomas E. Schenk, MD

Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York

Everett Weiss, MD

Chief Medical Information Officer, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Chapter 1

Closing the gaps.

This year, HEALTHeLINK has worked to increase our numbers in key areas, such as patients consented and practices as data sources, which leads to improving data quality overall.

One million patient consents

A major milestone.

In addition to reaching then surpassing a million patient consents, approximately 96% of consented patients authorize their health information to be shared among treating providers. With that consent, health care providers can access their patients’ medical information via HEALTHeLINK, which has proven to improve the quality of care, enhance safety, and reduce health care costs by eliminating duplicate testing.

Minor consent launched.

Thanks to a change in New York State policy, participating providers can now securely retrieve data for minors (patients 10–17 years of age) through HEALTHeLINK. Access to the data requires that a parent or a legal guardian sign an affirmative HEALTHeLINK consent form on behalf of the child. For a physician with a minor patient who may see several other physicians, having access to this information allows for better and more-efficient care decisions.

Improving data quality.

For providers to offer the safest, most cost-effective, highest quality care, they must have their patients’ most accurate clinical information readily available. In an effort to close data gaps and increase quality of both clinical and nonclinical information, HEALTHeLINK introduced scorecards to hospitals in 2017 and will introduce them to practices in 2018. These scorecards contain information about types, completeness, and quality of data practices are providing. And this feedback can then be used to modify workflow and technical integration to close the gaps.

Chapter 2

Demonstrating value.

While HEALTHeLINK’s overall goal is to improve the quality of care, enhance patient safety, and help mitigate health care costs, we continue to take the service to the next level. This is happening organically as practices, providers, and hospitals learn firsthand the benefits health information exchange (HIE) can have on their overall operations.

Survey finds consumers support health information exchange.

Patients in Western New York largely believe the community’s health care system is performing at a high level and is generally safe. They also believe that access to electronic health records by physicians is good for health care. By the numbers, a survey of 1,000 WNY residents found:

87% believe the health system is providing a high level of care

86% believe the health care system is generally safe

90% were aware that their health care information was being electronically shared

82% believe electronic access to patient data is good for health care

81% indicated they would encourage their doctors to use HEALTHeLINK

Business continuity during a crisis.

In April 2017, ECMC’s computer network was hit by a cybersecurity attack. While the hospital’s IT team worked to bring the system back online, hospital staff manually updated medical records, admitted patients, and refilled prescriptions to maintain patient care.

This attack, while extremely unfortunate, is the latest and most profound example of how HEALTHeLINK works and demonstrated how critical the organization was to keeping ECMC running during this compromised time. Because the hospital was already a data source and a heavy user prior to the network outage, ECMC staff could securely access data from HEALTHeLINK. HEALTHeLINK staff spent the first 24 hours after the attack enabling secure access to emergency department providers and, over the next few days, maintained a presence at the hospital to set up accounts, enable user access, and provide training and support.

HEALTHeLINK’s presence and collaboration from day one was crucial to providing instant, secure access to patient data when it became inaccessible from ECMC’s own systems. Since the event, HEALTHeLINK has formalized its crisis response process and is reaching out to all WNY hospitals to include this in their emergency-preparedness plans.

Growth of alert notifications.

Participating HEALTHeLINK providers can be notified of their patients’ admissions, discharges, and transfers, including local emergency department visits, in real time with alert notifications. By having this up-to-date information, providers can schedule timely follow-up visits with patients to review diagnoses and new medications, ultimately reducing the chance of future readmissions. HEALTHeLINK also offers a 30-day readmission alert notification service for hospitals. If activated, an alert is automatically sent to a hospital if a discharged patient is admitted to any other hospital within 30 days.

Patients subscribed for alert notifications to be sent to their doctors: 390,460

558 providers subscribed

686,058 alerts delivered in 2017

Increasing use in emergency departments.

HEALTHeLINK continues to work with providers to increase utilization and patient data queries in WNY emergency departments (EDs). HEALTHeLINK is also easing the workflow for providers and their staff by implementing a single-click access to patient summaries from within an ED’s electronic health records (EHRs), as well as providing further education on the benefits of using HEALTHeLINK in EDs.

Patient record lookup in EDs grew by 50%

Successful HIE usage by medical residents.

More than three years ago, HEALTHeLINK – with the support of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Catholic Health System, ECMC, and Kaleida Health – introduced medical residents to HIE so they, like their mentors, could provide safe and efficient patient care.

Starting with third-year residents in emergency medicine, family practice, internal medicine, and OB/GYN, UB has since expanded access to include all residents in all its 19 resident programs, while Catholic Health enabled use for residents in the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Most recently, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center introduced their medical residents to HEALTHeLINK.

Chapter 3

How its working.

As more and more practices and providers across Western New York adopt HEALTHeLINK, the news is spreading that it’s working for health care professionals. Hear it straight from the source and watch what unfolds in these four stories from satisfied HEALTHeLINK users.

Hear how its working from these professionals.

Chapter 4

Collaborating in
WNY and beyond.

HEALTHeLINK can attribute its ongoing successful growth to the spirit of collaboration among its founding stakeholders and participants. In recent years, it has expanded that collaboration both statewide through participation in the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY) and nationally as a founding member of the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC), which is the national trade association of HIEs and strategic business and technology partners.

Connecting RHIOs statewide through SHIN-NY.

Participating HEALTHeLINK physicians are utilizing SHIN-NY for access to patient information from outside Western New York. When logged in to HEALTHeLINK, physicians are alerted if there is clinical information on their patients from other New York State regional health information organizations (RHIOs). In addition, WNY patients can have their clinical information made available to a treating doctor anywhere in the state. With this connection, participating providers receive a more complete picture of their patients’ health information, no matter where in New York State they seek treatment.

Founding SHIEC member.

SHIEC has grown to more than 60 community health information exchange (HIE) organizations from across the country that manage and provide for the secure digital exchange of data among medical, behavioral, and social service providers to improve the health of the communities they serve. HEALTHeLINK executive director Daniel Porreca serves as chair of the 2017–2018 SHIEC Board of Directors.

Chapter 5

Progress by the numbers.

HEALTHeLINK continues to build its network to give participants medical information when and where it’s needed at the point of care. Today, a provider securely accesses records via HEALTHeLINK every five seconds.

HEALTHeLINK has 266 data sources including:

27 hospitals

10 regional radiology providers

5 independent laboratory practices

4 home health care agencies

4 long-term care facilities

3 medication history sources

213 physician practices

100% of laboratory results generated in WNY are available through HEALTHeLINK

100% of laboratory results generated in WNY are available through HEALTHeLINK

reports available in HEALTHeLINK: 213 million (includes ADT, laboratory, radiology, transcriptions, telemonitoring, and discharge medications)

reports added monthly: approximately 2 million

Total participating providers – 4,447

Total participating practices – 1,135

Total number of users – 22,357

Number of practices and providers that are sending HEALTHeLINK data from EHRs:

213 practices

1,065 providers

Patient record lookup totals – 2,540,745

Patient consents – 1,000,000


Make 2018 a
transformational year

While HEALTHeLINK made huge strides in 2017, there’s still more work to do. The proven value of having a more complete picture of a patient’s clinical history at the point of care for both the provider and the patient cannot be overstated. To achieve better patient care and mitigate costs, HEALTHeLINK needs the support of the entire Western New York community.

To join or learn how to make better use of HEALTHeLINK, visit our website or call a member of our account management team at (716) 206-0993.