Multistate Initiative to Help Build a Health Information Infrastructure

An RWJF National Program
    • October 1, 2003

Field of Work: Health care industry's needs for information exchange technologies

Problem Synopsis: Many industries have found it beneficial, if not essential, to allow different stakeholders to share information easily and safely—for example, the ability to withdraw cash from virtually any automated teller machine in the world, or to make phone calls across systems owned by different communications companies. Yet the health care industry, which accounts for over $1 trillion in annual spending, still lacks the capacity to enable stakeholders to exchange information easily and safely. While a number of issues unique to health care may be to blame, the consequence of the health care industry's failure to embrace electronic commerce has been a wide range of inefficiencies, resulting in higher costs and poorer quality of care.

Synopsis of the Work: The Foundation for Health Care Quality in Seattle, facilitated a collaboration of information technology organizations to address the health care industry's shortcomings in developing and using secure and reliable information exchange technologies. The program was called the Multistate Initiative to Help Build a Health Information Infrastructure. It took place between August 1997 and March 2002.

Key Results

  • Accomplishments by the HealthKey organizations included the following:

    • The Community Health Information Technology Alliance, a program of the nonprofit Foundation for Health Care Quality, worked with Washington State's department of health to test the electronic transmission of laboratory results to public health agencies within a secure infrastructure.
    • The nonprofit North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance worked with the state's Department of Health and Human Services to consolidate immunization data into a single database that health care providers could access securely.
    • The nonprofit Massachusetts Health Data Consortium worked with six organizations to develop a system for secure business-to-business communications using encryption at the organizational "border" rather than at an individual's desktop, thereby eliminating the need for individual digital certificates.