Region-wide health information exchange gets underway, all of San Antonio’s major hospital systems sharing medical records electronically

HASAlogo2Local officials from Healthcare Access San Antonio (HASA), the entity putting together the Health Information Exchange (HIE) for this region, was joined today by the major health systems and Councilman Ron Nirenberg to celebrate that physicians at five of the six major hospitals in San Antonio are now able to share patient records. This is a first for our region and represents the first step to connecting with other HIEs throughout Texas and the nation.

Starting this week, Baptist Health System, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, Nix Health, Methodist Healthcare System and University Health Systems are either providing or are in the process of providing secure patient records into HASA’s HIE. This represents the medical records for more than 600,000 individual patients.

Electronic health information exchange, or “HIE,” is the electronic movement of health-related information among organizations according to nationally recognized standards. Developing an HIE goes back to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. One of the Ps stands for portability of patient records. HIE also is an integral component of the health information technology (HIT) infrastructure under development in the United States and the associated National Health Information Network (NHIN). In 2010 HASA received Federal Funding to develop the HIE for all medical providers and for all patients in its 22 county region that includes Bexar County.

Gijs Van Oort, executive director for HASA said, “Today marks an important milestone of something that will profoundly benefit our community well into the future.” He said, “Most importantly, I want to thank all of our stakeholders who had the vision to decide that in this region, health providers and hospital systems will NOT compete on patient information.” Van Oort said, “That is a key differentiator for our region. One of which I am immensely proud.” He said, “After all, the main reason for doing this is for the patient. Our goal is to help improve continuity of care and increase patient health and safety.”

City of San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who was on hand for the celebration, said, “We have known for years that the widespread use of electronic medical records will unleash a breakthrough in the medical community. I’m glad to celebrate a huge step toward achieving that potential.” He said, “HASA has emerged with an infrastructure to facilitate information-sharing on a mass scale. By leveraging patient information with easy-to-use tools, HASA will enable our provider community to improve outcomes for patients community-wide.”

Geoff Crabtree, HASA Board Member, and senior vice president, Methodist Healthcare System, said, “The benefit of knowing what tests have already been done for patients coming in to our system so that we don’t repeat them, knowing where they already have been treated and what medications they are taking is of paramount importance to both the health provider AND the patient.”

Crabtree added that, from the HASA board perspective, “We had to be sure that we built this in a way that provided the highest security possible to protect patients.” He said, “Some of the provisions that we’ve implemented with the help and input of our stakeholders include:

  • First and foremost, the system is built to ensure privacy and security of the patient’s record.
  • The data is secure, encrypted, both as rest and in transit, and meets all federal and state requirements for privacy and security.
  • Patients have the option to not have their medical records transferred and can OPT OUT of the system.
  • Proper oversight and audit procedures are in place to ensure the system is secure and private.
  • We are educating the public through brochures and other channels to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate.”

Dr. Vanessa Hill, chief medical information officer for Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and a practicing physician, is one of many South Texas doctors who realize the value of HIEs.

Dr. Hill said, “If you are an individual doctor or own a medical practice or if you talk to almost any physician, you’ll hear about how inefficient and tedious the process is for obtaining patient information from another office, hospital, emergency department, or clinic.” Dr. Hill said, “The HIE will make it possible for me to securely access patient information from many different participating facilities in a matter of seconds. I urge all of my physician colleagues, whether you are a primary care doctor or a specialist, to participate with HASA. The more people who support HASA, the stronger our community safety net becomes.”

DD Belair is the mother of a child with a medically complex situation. For more than a decade she has been “the gate keeper of all the reports, scans and digital images.” Belair said she looks forward to not having to lug around the pile of records to each doctor appointment.

“CHRISTUS’ goal in participating was simple,” said president & CEO, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. “By  joining HASA we hope to be a part of the solution toward eliminating duplicative care and at the same time enabling healthcare practitioners to get the information they need to provide appropriate care to the patients they see sometimes in emergency or critical circumstances.”

Carrier said, “In order to truly be able to have seamless and efficient health care across multiple providers the sharing of appropriately guarded patient information will be critical. Beginning today, patients can know that there information is available when they need it and will only be viewable as they decide and that their care givers will only use this information as is necessary to improve their hospital experience.”

Van Oort said that while this is indeed an important landmark, the next step is getting all area doctors and health providers on board and enabling patients to access their records as well.

Van Oort said that patients interested in preregistering can go to The HIE for patients is expected to “go live” in early 2014.

Who are the HASA Stakeholders?
HASA’s Board of Directors is comprised of 16 members who are intended to mirror the healthcare landscape in our region. They include:  Atascosa Health Center, Baptist Health System, CentroMed, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa, Clarity Child Guidance Center, Clinical Pathology Laboratories, CommuniCare Health Centers, Community First Health Plans, Daughters of Charity, Guadalupe Health Network, HEB, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, Methodist Healthcare System, San Antonio Military Health System, University Health Systems, UT Medicine, and YMCA. For a complete listing of the sitting members, please refer to

Who else has agreed to participate in HASA?
In addition to our stakeholders, HASA has signed contracts to participate from NIX Health, Connelly Memorial Hospital, Uvalde Memorial Hospital, Center for Health Care Services, Labcorp, San Antonio Metro Health District, IPC, GSEP, Brio San Antonio, PRMG and many rural healthcare providers.