By Laura Zaremba, Director, Illinois Office of Health Information Technology

The health care industry in Illinois and across the country is undergoing enormous change in both clinical and administrative operations.  Health information technology is playing a key role in the transformation of how health care is delivered.  More specifically, the transition from paper-based to electronic medical records and the secure exchange of health data is creating tremendous opportunities to improve patient care, reduce medical errors and lead to better health in our communities.

Technology has supported the delivery of high-quality health care for decades, but the sheer number and complexity of health information systems and the data they process have until very recently made it difficult to consolidate the right data into a format that can be easily accessed by your doctor.  The implementation of the federal HITECH Act and its national initiatives to certify electronic health records systems and promote interoperability standards is changing that dynamic and paving the way for better health care.

Electronic health records store vital information, such as patient medical history, medications, allergies and current diagnoses, which can be accessed by your health care provider to ensure that you receive the most appropriate care and experience the best possible health outcomes.  The secure electronic exchange of those records can significantly reduce the risk of errors, delays in care and administrative waste and inefficiency that cost patients, doctors and insurers valuable time and money.

Federal financial incentives have been a powerful accelerant to the use of certified electronic medical records in Illinois.  Today, more than 11,000 individual practitioners and 150 hospitals throughout the state are participating in the electronic health records incentive programs under Medicare and Medicaid.  More than $228 million in federal funds have already been paid to Illinois health care providers through the incentive programs and hundreds of millions more is expected to be paid between now and 2021.

Health care providers and hospitals need to be able to send and receive patient information securely and electronically to make high-quality health care possible.  The key to meeting that need is electronic health records and secure health information exchange networks.  That is why the Illinois Health Information Exchange was created in 2009 by state law to establish a secure network for exchanging electronic health records and delivering vital health information when and where it is needed most.  The Illinois Health Information Exchange network serves more than 900 health care providers and that number is expected to grow to 2000 by the end of 2012.

Participants in the Illinois Health Information Exchange range from small physician practices to academic medical centers to community mental health providers.  Through the use of national standards, other health information exchange networks, including those in other states, will be able to connect to the Illinois Health Information Exchange to ensure that vital information is available wherever patients seek care.  To learn more about health information technology and the Illinois Health Information Exchange, visit


Did You Know?

Source: ONC/AHA, AHA Annual Survey Information Technology Supplement

Adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) at Illinois’ hospitals significantly exceeds the national average of EHR adoption at non-federal acute care hospitals. In 2011 as many as 43.8 percent of Illinois’ non-federal acute care hospitals had implemented a basic EHR system in comparison with the nation average of 34.8 percent. In addition, Illinois’ adoption was the 12th highest in the nation in 2011, and after Florida it is the most populous state amongst the top 12 states by ranked by rate of EHR adoption.

Watch and Listen:

The Future of Health Care: Electronic Health Records
What is a Health Information Exchange?


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