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University of Nebraska Public Policy Center

Western Nebraska Health Information Exchange

PPC researchers were asked to facilitate the secure electronic sharing of health information between providers in the Nebraska Panhandle in order to make patient information more easily accessible and to ensure high-quality care for rural residents. One of the early successes of the project was the opening of the Regional West Medical Center (RWMC) portal which allows providers from Panhandle critical access hospitals, who have appropriate permissions, immediate electronic access to records of their patients who have received care at RWMC.

This project laid the groundwork for the formation of a health information exchange within an established network of critical access hospitals, clinics, public health providers, and behavioral health providers across the rural, remote Nebraska Panhandle. The three goals were: (1) to develop an operational entity and incorporate a regional health information organization to support the development of a health information exchange; (2) to provide standardized training and user capacity development programs throughout the Panhandle; and (3) to implement electronic health records in critical access hospitals and rural health clinics through a shared process. The evaluation of the project explored both the extent to which the objectives were obtained, and the outcomes:
• An operational entity was established (Goal 1). The Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network formed the Western Nebraska Health Information Exchange, LLC as the operational entity and the Managers are responsible for all implementation and operation activities.
• Standardized training and user capacity development programs were delivered to hundreds of Panhandle participants live, and over Nebraska’s telehealth network (Goal 2).
• Progress was made toward implementing electronic health records (Goal 3). A vendor was selected and, at the grant’s conclusion, the Managers were negotiating contract terms and identifying funding for the implementation costs.

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