Frequently Asked Questions

What is HEALTHeLINK?

HEALTHeLINK, the Western New York Clinical Information Exchange, is a non-profit organization established to develop a privacy-protected, community-based system for health care providers and consumers to securely and electronically share important medical and clinical information more efficiently.

HEALTHeLINK is a collaborative consortium that includes The Catholic Health System, The Erie County Medical Center Corporation, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health Association, Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Univera Healthcare. HEALTHeLINK serves health care providers throughout the 8 counties of Western New York.

Why was HEALTHeLINK created?

HEALTHeLINK was created to improve the quality and delivery of care and to address the rising costs of the health care system. A critical outcome of this initiative is to help save lives by eliminating medical errors by allowing a patient’s doctors immediate access to their critical health information.

Through this health information exchange, physicians and health care providers throughout Western New York can better serve their consumers by sharing medical information electronically. Examples of information that can be shared with a patient’s doctor include: lab results, radiology results, medication history, admission and discharge information, and a variety of other reports.

What are the benefits of HEALTHeLINK?

Through an electronic health information exchange like HEALTHeLINK, physicians have secure access to the most current information on their patients all in one place. This process will allow for more informed decisions on the patient’s behalf and also has the potential to help address unnecessary health care costs, i.e. duplication of the same test by different doctors. HEALTHeLINK seamlessly creates a network among providers in the health care community to improve the quality of care for their patients.

What is an electronic medical record (EMR)?

An EMR replaces traditional paper records which you typically see when visiting your doctor’s office. An EMR is a computer-based digital record securely stored on a computer and software system that contains your health information. This information includes one’s medical history, including a list of all illnesses and medical procedures as well as results and treatments in electronic, rather than paper, form.

What is the difference between HEALTHeLINK and an electronic medical record system?

HEALTHeLINK is a network that allows for the secure sharing of patient health information between providers such as a primary care physician’s office and a hospital emergency room. An EMR is a computer-based digital record securely stored on a computer and software system that contains your health information.

Who will have access to my electronic medical history?

HIPAA and New York State rules protecting privacy and control of medical information will remain the same.

Most patients currently allow their health care providers to exchange test results and other information as a routine part of their care. This information is shared by phone, fax or hard copy.  HEALTHeLINK allows that information to be shared electronically and more efficiently through a secure online program.

What if I don’t want my medical information shared via HEALTHeLINK?

The patient holds the key for providers to access their health information via HEALTHeLINK.  In order for a patient’s health information to be accessed by one of their treating providers, a patient needs to sign a consent form. For instance, if your primary physician sends you to a lab for blood work and that information needs to be reviewed by a specialist such as a surgeon, then a patient would need to sign a consent form for that information to be retrieved electronically by the surgeon without the primary doctor’s involvement. 

Will HEALTHeLINK be able to protect me from being a victim of identity theft?

The protection and security of patient health information is of paramount importance to HEALTHeLINK and it continues to remain among the organization’s highest priorities. HEALTHeLINK uses state of the art security features that include multiple levels of password protection to ensure authorized user access, strong encryption, and restricted access. HEALTHeLINK uses a secure platform, which meets recent federal guidelines, in authenticating participating physicians in accessing patient health information securely and electronically, while ensuring patient health information is kept private and confidential.  Unlike paper records, every time patient health information is accessed through HEALTHeLINK, the user is logged electronically and can be audited to ensure that patient health information is only being viewed by the physician(s) providing treatment.

What about security matters such as hackers breaking into the system or if a computer is stolen?

HEALTHeLINK utilizes the most advanced technologies to keep patient health information secure and safe.  Encryption, password protection, the ability to track every viewer, and other safeguards are utilized to protect the exchange of consumer health care information.

Aren’t paper records safer than sharing consumer health information electronically via the Internet?

No.  With the use of paper records, unauthorized access is a frequently reported problem.  For example, if one provider faxes test results to another provider’s office, there is no record of who in the office may have seen the fax before the physician reviews it.  Unlike paper records, every time patient health information is accessed through HEALTHeLINK, the user is logged electronically and can be audited to ensure that patient health information is only being viewed by the physician(s) providing treatment.

Is my doctor or hospital required to participate in HEALTHeLINK or to have my health history in the form of an electronic medical record?

No, both are voluntary decisions made by a provider. However, there is a strong state and national effort by health care providers, including physicians, to switch to electronic medical record keeping to improve the quality of patient care and to reduce medical errors and treatment duplication.

Where can I get more information about HEALTHeLINK?

You can learn more about HEALTHeLINK by visiting www.wnyhealthelink.com or by calling 716-206-0993 ext. 311.