Highlight on Delaware: State HIE shows others benefits of sharing

Although the state of Delaware decided not to blaze any trails with health insurance exchange development, there is one exchange within the state which is doing just that. The Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN), the state’s health information exchange network, established the first operational statewide health information exchange in the country in May 2007 and hasn’t looked back since. Its latest effort is also breaking ground, this time in the medical research field.

DHIN will collaborate with iSpecimen, and the two have formed an agreement under which hospitals and laboratories in their network will reuse patients’ remnant clinical specimens, which would have otherwise been discarded once initial testing is complete, to support medical research. Union Hospital in Elkton, Maryland has already signed on to participate in the network.

Within the program, specimens and their associated data will be searchable in real-time. Health care information from participating DHIN members is de-identified and matched to corresponding remnant specimens at participating provider sites. iSpecimen is responsible for collecting medical samples and specimens. When data matches are made, iSpecimen’s specialized technology will instruct laboratory personnel at participating provider sites to collect and ship the specific specimens to iSpecimen’s research customers instead of discarding them as they usually do once clinical testing is complete. Hospitals choosing to participate in this program will benefit from reduced DHIN fees.

Hospital and clinic patients must also consent to the use of their specimens. The program only uses samples from patients who have expressly consented to participate are considered for an active research project. Patient samples from individuals who have not actively consented or who have declined to participate will be excluded and suppressed from consideration in any research project.

“The value of digitizing medical data extends beyond the obvious value of supporting direct patient care,” said Jan Lee, MD, CEO, DHIN. “With informed patient consent, digital data can also help match clinical specimens with very specific research criteria. DHIN is proud to play a role in supporting such efforts to find new breakthrough treatments and cures. We are delighted to have iSpecimen as a technology partner and to have Union Hospital as the first adopter of this innovative program.”

Christopher Ianelli, MD, PhD, CEO, iSpecimen, is quick to point out the benefits to hospitals and various research institutions. “By leveraging an HIE as the data aggregator, we’re making it easier for health care organizations to become part of the iSpecimen network by virtually eliminating their need to do any IT implementation. Requiring virtually no startup resources on the hospital or lab’s part, we can turn their specimen waste into valuable research material and make it visible to the scientific community.”

DHIN handles more than 14 million clinical results and reports annually and works with other states such as Maryland to expand its network. One hundred percent of Delaware’s acute care hospitals and nearly all of Delaware’s doctors and medical practices participate with DHIN. According to DHIN, participating hospitals achieve higher quality medical care outcomes more quickly, and at a lower cost. They securely deliver patient information and test results from hospitals, laboratories and radiology facilities directly to doctors providing clinical care.