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July 2009 St@teside

Wisconsin Works to Promote Health Information Exchange and Training in the Use of Electronic Medical Records

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced on June 18 that it plans to design and implement a statewide health information exchange (HIE).  Earlier this month they hosted five regional meetings to get input from stakeholders to inform design of the statewide HIE infrastructure.

The announcement builds on several years of work in the state to promote the use of electronic medical records (EMR) and health information technology (HIT).  In 2005, Governor Jim Doyle appointed an eHealth Care Quality and Safety Board that developed an action plan for the state (released in December 2006).  The goals of the plan are to: 

  • Establish an eHealth technology platform,
  • Promote value-based purchasing policies and actions,
  • Link HIT and HIE plans to prevention and disease management activities, and
  • Take an incremental approach—growing thoughtfully over time with frequent evaluation of progress.

Wisconsin has already logged several successes.  The Milwaukee area has a functional HIE that links 14 hospitals, a federal qualified health center, and more than 100 clinics.  The state also has higher-than-average adoption of EMR, with 60 percent of providers already using EMR and another 19 percent currently implementing it, compared to a 38 percent national rate.[1]

Wisconsin hopes that its efforts will position the state to take advantage of some of the $2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that is designated to support strategic planning, infrastructure development and technical assistance. Furthermore, the state hopes that the statewide HIE will enable their health care providers to take advantage of incentive payments in Medicare and Medicaid for providers who meet “meaningful use” standards for EMR, which will include standards for information exchange.  Regulations outlining the details of “meaningful use” and other HIT specifications are expected from the Department of Health and Human Services in December of this year; proposed regulations are expected sometime this fall.[2] 

In another move announced on June 19 by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the state will provide over $70,000 for an initiative in La Crosse that will include funds for 70 health care workers to learn computer skills to enable them to utilize electronic medical records.

[1] Wisconsin State-Level Health Information Exchange Planning and Design Project (July 2009) Health Information Exchange Regional Summit Meeting [Powerpoint] retrieved from
[2] The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) HIT Policy Committee met last week to decide on recommendations for “meaningful use” that will be submitted to the Secretary of HHS.  A complete record of the work of the HIT Policy Committee can be found here.