In response to the editorial in the Nov. 27 edition of The Advocate regarding the establishment of the Greater New Orleans Health Information Exchange, reference was made to “a similar statewide exchange,” but no additional information was provided for readers.

In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita decimated the health-care system in Louisiana’s coastal regions, leaving millions of displaced residents without access to their medical records.

In response to those issues and at the recommendation of the Louisiana Health Care Redesign Collaborative, the daunting task of reforming the state’s health-care financing, care delivery and advancing and improving an information-technology system was given to the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum.

Since then, the Quality Forum has served as the neutral convener, bringing together payers, purchasers, providers and consumers to drive improvements in Louisiana’s health-care system. Among its many accomplishments is the establishment of the Louisiana Health Information Exchange (LaHIE), which allows authorized providers and organizations to electronically access and share health-related information through a secure and confidential network.

The result of a $10.6 million grant awarded in 2010 by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, as part of ARRA, LaHIE officially launched in November 2011. It now has participation agreements with 42 hospitals and 49 hospital-affiliated clinics as well as several community clinics, school-based health centers, private practices, ambulance companies and home health providers across the state. LaHIE also facilitates public-health reporting in Louisiana, thus improving the Department of Health and Hospitals’ ability to identify and address public-health threats.

As a testament to the growing importance of the statewide exchange, the Quality Forum is currently assisting 1,600 health-care providers in the transition to electronic health records, which in time will be accessible to authorized providers through LaHIE.

LaHIE not only ensures that Louisiana’s residents will not face a repeat of the health-care disaster left behind by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it also reduces health-care costs by eliminating the need for repeated medical tests. In addition, LaHIE provides health-care professionals with immediate access to patients’ medical information in time-sensitive situations.

The GNOHIE was launched recently, and much like the statewide exchange, it aims to improve patient care by making patients’ medical records available regardless of where they’re being treated. As the state-designated entity for the implementation of LaHIE, the Quality Forum welcomes the GNOHIE, and applauds its plans to connect with the statewide exchange.

The Quality Forum’s goal is to improve health-care delivery for Louisiana’s residents, and connecting GNOHIE with the statewide exchange will be a significant step toward achieving that goal.

Cindy Munn, executive director

Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum

Baton Rouge