State to Expand Medical Databases

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

This month the State Department of Health essentially laid the ground work to create a health database of all New Yorkers.  The State Department of Health, with funding from the Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law of New York State (HEAL NY) program, awarded $10 million toward this end.  For some time, a consortium of health care professionals, entities, and hospitals have operated HealtheLink, the Western New York Clinical Information Exchange, with reported success.

The same organization, HealtheLink, was awarded this grant to develop and implement a clinical data exchange related to population and public health targeting child health immunization, newborn screening, syndromic surveillance, and chronic disease with a specific focus on cancer for the whole state.

According to HealtheLink press releases, “the goal of the project is to decrease reporting burdens and promote sharing of clinical information and other public health-related information at the point of care as well as advancing public health priorities in the evolving world of health information technology.”

This makes sense and could save lives.  Most doctors file patient information electronically as it is.  Combining these files into a larger database could help specialists and new primary care physicians access health information quicker, which speeds up the treatment time.  This type of databasing is being done in other areas of the state and the nation as well.  It is hoped that this funding will help link other databases within the state so that more public health information can be known and tracked.  If an emergency room doctor was faced with having to treat a patient who was incapacitated, they can quickly know, for instance, if that patient is allergic to any medications and prevent further injury.  It is also hoped that, ultimately, this will help save in medical costs so our state and federal health departments can know more of how to spend limited resources on more specific kinds of preventative care.

According to news reports last week, the state has invested more than $400 million in such projects across New York, mostly to support community-based initiatives such as those underway at HealtheLink.  The contract from the DOH includes developing a statewide initiative to develop the exchange, which would serve as a template for other regional health information organizations (RHIO) in other New York communities. The ultimate goal is to have a statewide database of clinical health data.

Previous grants awarded to HealtheLink focused on creating an electronic communication system to connect primary care providers with mental health professionals and their patients.  HealtheLink received a $16.1 million federal grant to use technology to improve care for patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions. That grant came from the Beacon Community Program, with funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).  Year to date, the organization has received nearly $30 million in state and federal grant funding to build and expand health information systems.

For more information on HealtheLink, visit   If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.