HEALTHeLINK: 2014 Report to the Community


HEALTHeLINK: Its Working.

We’re reaching a tipping point. Over the past 12 months, our total number of participating patients and doctors has grown to 704,546. And as one of the leading clinical information exchanges in the country, we can now say that we’re making a noticeable difference right here in Western New York. For the past six years, we’ve been connecting health care professionals to vital information about their patients. In that time, the evidence of how well it’s working has revealed itself in meaningful and quantifiable ways. Dig into our 2014 report to get a sense of how exactly we’re doing that.


Who We Are.

HEALTHeLINK, the Western New York clinical information exchange, is a collaborative effort among various health care organizations to share clinical information in efficient and meaningful ways to improve the delivery of care, enhance outcomes, and help control health care costs. HEALTHeLINK is certified by NYSDOH as a Qualified Entity (QE), and together with Western New York’s hospitals, physicians, health plans, health care providers, and the New York State Department of Health, serves the eight counties of the region. Western New Yorkers who give their consent allow physicians and providers involved in their treatment to safely access relevant medical information via HEALTHeLINK. And that means more timely and effective treatment at the point of care.

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

A Message from Our Board Chair.

David Scamurra

The results of HEALTHeLINK’s recent projects in CT scan and emergency department utilization clearly demonstrate that Western New York’s clinical information exchange is far more than an IT project designed to put data into one’s electronic medical record (EMR). However you choose to measure, the positive financial impact on local health care costs is large.

For physicians who have been able to use HEALTHeLINK on a regular basis as I have, the larger and more meaningful positive effect on workflow efficiency, patient turnaround time and quality outcome of any episode of care dwarfs the raw dollar savings from test utilization that these projects demonstrate.

We have built the infrastructure. The challenge now is to make it as useful as possible. This translates into better end user experience, better access to the data and more patient consents. While we are well on our way to this end and remain well ahead of almost every community in the country, further advancing HEALTHeLINK starts with recognizing that this project is bigger than any one institution or stakeholder. It requires more collaborative efforts of payers, providers and businesses.

Hospitals and physicians need to pressure their EMR vendors to work with HEALTHeLINK to make the necessary changes for faster access to better data. Payers and providers need to juggle resources so the transition to more efficient care benefits the community as a whole without short term damage to any institution. Businesses need to understand the potential this has for their employees and generate the collective community will to see this through.

And most importantly, we as a community need to understand that HEALTHeLINK is a transformational event in our health care system. If used properly it can result in a significant competitive advantage to attract businesses here as the cost and quality of our health care will be substantially and measurably superior to other areas. Everyone will benefit from that.

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

Marking six years of the unprecedented level of collaboration from local hospital systems, health plans, providers, and the New York State Department of Health, we continue to build a strong health information exchange in Western New York and undertake innovative approaches to improve the quality of care, enhance patient safety, and control health care costs. To date, all Western New York hospitals and nearly 3,300 physicians are participating and seeing firsthand the value HEALTHeLINK provides.

One indicator of how HEALTHeLINK is working is the number of times data is accessed via HEALTHeLINK. In 2014 alone, there were more than one million patient record lookups, enabling more efficient access to information doctors need to make better decisions for their patients. If you’re keeping track, it took six years to reach our first million, and only 12 months to reach the second million.

For that we owe a big thank you to all of our participating physicians and medical staff who regularly access HEALTHeLINK to better treat their patients. We are now able to measure and quantify the value of this use as was illustrated in a pilot project we did with three area emergency departments. In that project, we documented the impact of HEALTHeLINK when emergency physicians have the most current information on the patient. The study revealed that HEALTHeLINK improves both patient care and safety. And as far as we’re concerned, that’s what success looks like.

This year, we also made strides in taking what we have built here in Western New York to the next level through the advancement of the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY). The SHIN-NY will allow a patient’s information to follow them anywhere they seek treatment in New York State. This kind of statewide access will help doctors effectively and efficiently care for patients, even when they’re away from home.

While our services have substantially expanded and adoption continues to grow, we still have work to do. We must ensure all providers and patients understand the opportunity to improve the delivery of care for consented patients by using the high-quality data available through HEALTHeLINK. It’s our goal to continue to showcase how HEALTHeLINK is providing value today, and how it will advance the health care of tomorrow.

Daniel E. Porreca
Executive Director, HEALTHeLINK

Chapter 1

Its working in the ER.

Every day, HEALTHeLINK hears from providers on how the health information exchange is working for them. This year, those insights came straight from the source. We placed clinical liaisons inside three local emergency departments to shadow attending physicians for a six- to eight-week period. These are the inspiring results of the study.

HEALTHeLINK-enrolled patients seen during our study period – 1,492

994 Medical histories available for those patients

487 Test results and imaging studies available

What did the physicians think?

After physicians saw the patients and received available information via HEALTHeLINK, they were asked a number of questions.

  • Did the information help you make the diagnosis more quickly and accurately?
  • Did it prevent duplication of testing and other services?
  • Was there a decrease in cycle time?
  • Any other improvements in care coordination?

In most cases, physicians said the information improved their understanding of the patient’s history in a number of ways.

43% of patients for whom the information was clinically relevant to their chief complaint

17% Of the time extra tests were avoided. This is big, not only in terms of cost savings for the patient, but also for decreasing exposure to radiation and invasive procedures and, in some instances, avoiding admission to the hospital.

$58,000 to $137,000 was saved on treating the patient population at one area emergency department when HEALTHeLINK was involved

Its working in the Erie County Department of Health.

Since implementing HEALTHeLINK for its epidemiology and disease surveillance, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is noticing significant improvements in tracking public health efforts, specifically for STD surveillance, treatment, and prevention.

46% (2006) – 8% (2012) The decrease in the percentage of reported chlamydia cases with unknown treatment in Erie County

19% (2006) – 4% (2012) The decrease in the percentage of reported gonorrhea cases with unknown treatment in Erie County

These efficiencies have decreased the time it takes for disease intervention specialists to identify treatment requests, cases, and contacts. ECDOH epidemiology staff and disease intervention specialists access lab, radiology, medication, and demographic data to determine if STD treatment is administered, and to monitor demographic and contact information on STD patients and their partners.

“Having secure access to public health statistics and other data provides our public health practitioners with important and timely information to help them understand where we need to focus our attention in providing health care resources and education. Our ongoing prevention efforts related to STDs have been aided by our collaboration with HEALTHeLINK, which has become a valuable tool in our efforts to provide the public with more efficient care.”

Gale Burstein, MD, MPH
ECDOH Commissioner

Chapter 2

Bigger is better.

Our network just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And that’s better. By the end of 2014, more than 139 million results from 50 data sources were available through HEALTHeLINK. To view the list of current data sources, click here.

The facts:

HEALTHeLINK has 50 datasources including:

27 hospitals

3 labs

9 regional radiology providers

4 home health care agencies

4 long-term care facilities

3 medication history sources

98% of laboratory results generated in WNY are available through HEALTHeLINK

90% of radiology reports generated in WNY are available through HEALTHeLINK

“Joining the clinical information exchange is a significant milestone for our health system because it will enhance patient care for diverse populations that we serve in Eastern Niagara County.”

Mohammed Mere
Assistant Administrator for Planning at Eastern Niagara Hospital

reports available in HEALTHeLINK: >139 million

reports added monthly: approximately 2.6 million

Direct delivery of results into EHR system

2011 – 23 practices, 189 providers

2014 – 308 practices, 1,095 providers

“Our relationship with HEALTHeLINK is one more step in Wyoming County Community Health System’s commitment to have a positive impact on the health of our rural community. We have not only invested in brick-and-mortar, new equipment, and building renovations, but also see the need to be part of this collaborative effort that is the future of health care.”

Donald T. Eichenauer, CEO
Wyoming County Community Health System

Its working in hospital admissions.

In April 2014, it became official: New York State received federal approval to implement a Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program. With $6.42 million, the program will encourage community-level collaborations and focus on overall system reform, with a few specific five-year goals in mind:

  • Transforming the safety net system
  • Reducing avoidable hospital use by 25%
  • Improving other health measures to ensure delivery system transformation continues beyond the waiver period through managed care payment reform

With the new program, HEALTHeLINK joined forces with the two Performing Provider Systems (PPS) supporting Western New York, Millennium (led by ECMC) and Community Partners of WNY (led by Catholic Medical Partners), to determine how best to leverage the investment in health IT to support their unique DSRIP-driven projects.

Millenium, Community Partners of WNY, HEALTHeLINK

Chapter 3

More patients, more progress.

The numbers are encouraging with approximately 689 practices and 3,318 providers currently participating in HEALTHeLINK, and nearly three quarters of a million patient consents. What’s more: While it took six years to reach our first million patient record lookups, we managed the second million in a mere 12 months, which means we’re really picking up the pace.

Total participating providers – 3,318

Total participating practices – 689

Total number of users – 13,872

Patient record lookup totals – 1,013,920

Patient consents – 701,228

“HEALTHeLINK and its connection to our primary care practice’s electronic medical record enables the secure online patient portal for our patients to become more active participants in their health care. Our patients will use the portal as a tool to view their lab and imaging results, request referrals and medication refills, and manage appointments.”

Dr. Edwin Heidelberger
Vice President of Medical Affairs for Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and a physician with the Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Primary Care Center

Partnering with the next generation of physicians.

We’re working with University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to train residents on HEALTHeLINK as part of their program. By introducing the residents to this community resource, they will learn how health information technology can provide valuable information about their patients at the point of care, as well as position the resource as a vital part of our health care community.

reports available in HEALTHeLINK: >102 million

Chapter 4

Its working
in public health systems.

HEALTHeLINK is close with all our public health systems. We work with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to enable the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) for electronic information exchange between Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) and NYSDOH. This partnership improves provider-health system interactions, decreases reporting burdens, and increases access to clinically valuable information at the point of care.

Here, we’ll show you how.

Syndromic Surveillance.

Jones Memorial Hospital became the first facility to submit its syndromic surveillance data to NYSDOH via HEALTHeLINK’s automated reporting service. This data is used to detect outbreaks and monitor disease developments. With this new service, HEALTHeLINK can collect the required information from hospital admissions, discharge and transfer transactions, and securely transport it to NYSDOH without the submitting facility lifting a finger.

Newborn Screening.

New York State health care providers are required by law to submit a blood sample from all newborn infants after the first 24 hours of life to Watson Laboratory in Albany, where it’s processed and tested for more than 40 abnormalities. A report of these tests, highlighting any results that fall outside acceptable ranges, is then sent back to the submitting hospital. HEALTHeLINK is the first RHIO in the state to work with a hospital system – Kaleida Health – to use an automated process for exchanging newborn screening information with NYSDOH. Results include:

  • A reduction in data entry
  • A computer-generated, printed label that replaces handwritten information and increases accuracy and readability
  • The automatic delivery of test results to the submitting hospital’s EHR system for inclusion in the newborn’s chart

Immunization Query.

Sweet Home Family Medicine became the first practice in the state to request a full immunization history on a patient and receive the resulting report from the New York State Immunization Information System via HEALTHeLINK’s automated immunization query service. With this, immunizations that are documented by clinicians in patients’ EHRs from anywhere in New York State can be collected and securely reported without the provider leaving their EHR system. This allows the provider to get a clear picture of a patient’s immunization history, no matter where in the state the patient received vaccinations.

“Jones Memorial is a small, rural hospital with limited resources and the opportunity provided by this collaboration helped us reach one of our Meaningful Use goals well ahead of schedule. It was a pleasure working with HEALTHeLINK; we appreciate the assistance they provided and look forward to working with them on similar initiatives that may arise.”

Alicia Johnson
Director of IT at Jones Memorial Hospital

Chapter 5

Stretching across the state.

In 2014, HEALTHeLINK joined the other participants in the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), a contingency of health information exchanges just like HEALTHeLINK that spans New York State, to enable patients' information to follow them anywhere in the state no matter the region they're in or from.

SHIN-NY: A technology framework spanning the state that allows providers secure access to patient medical data through organizations such as HEALTHeLINK

What it means for patients from Buffalo to Brooklyn.

If a patient from Buffalo needed care while visiting Brooklyn, for example, the SHIN-NY would allow the treating physician instant access to information required to provide effective treatment. SHIN-NY also ensures that patients who regularly see doctors in nearby regions can have their health records accessed without issue. In addition to improving the quality of care and improving patient safety, creating a statewide network is expected to save hundreds of millions of dollars through reduced re-admissions and the elimination of redundant tests.

$55 million Was provided by NYS to support the SHIN-NY in building out the network and connecting New York’s nine regional networks, including HEALTHeLINK

“By allocating funds to create the SHIN-NY, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to enhancing New York’s health care delivery system by making patient health information available to all providers and across all settings throughout the State. The work being done and the many accomplishments to date in Buffalo play a significant role in New York’s regional and statewide efforts.”

Dr. Howard Zucker
New York State Acting Health Commissioner

Chapter 6

Reaching the people.

To continue raising awareness among both physicians and patients about the value of HEALTHeLINK, a promotional campaign was launched in 2014. It yielded more than 64 million impressions, and also played a role in posting five-digit consent totals in nearly all of the months it ran. Media included online, television, radio, and social media, and the message was simple: HEALTHeLINK is working, and it’s making the health care experience in Western New York better for all.

Doctor TV Spot

Patient TV Spot


Is it working for you?

Every day we’re encouraged by the many stories of success shared with us by doctors, clinics, and medical practices throughout Western New York. We’re confident that with continued collaboration, HEALTHeLINK can make even greater improvements in health care.

Share your success.

If you’ve experienced what HEALTHeLINK has to offer – whether you’re a physician, administrator, or patient – we want to hear from you.


Watch how it’s working for a couple of patients.

Watch how it’s working for a couple of patients