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System allows EMS providers to access patients' medical records

A Rio Grande Valley nonprofit organization is looking to change the way healthcare information is communicated between Emergency Medical Services units and hospitals.

A Rio Grande Valley nonprofit organization is looking to change the way healthcare information is communicated between Emergency Medical Services units and hospitals.

The Rio Grande Valley Health Information Exchange, or RGVHIE project, allows hospitals and EMS to access, send and receive patient information.

"Basically by accessing patients' medical records, they'll be able to provide better clinical decisions and ultimately save lives," said Trauma Regional Advisory Counsel member Dr. David Luna.

Currently, EMS providers are using outdated methods of communication with hospitals, and do not have the capability to access patient information.

"The problem is the systems don't talk to each other," said RGVHIE executive director Andrew Lombardo. "You have one person using a system, and another using another system. They fax each other the information, which defeats the purpose."

Now, the hospitals will be able to see information, like a patient’s vitals, in real time.

"Imagine the EMS being able to find out the patient's medications they may be on," Luna said. "Any allergies, any surgeries, any conditions that can help make a decision and relay that to the emergency rooms so they'll be ready."

The RGVHIE was awarded $500,000 in grant money from the Legacy Foundation. The immediate access could help EMS providers with effective methods of treatment. The information would be available from county to county.

"Our goal is to connect all the hospitals in our region, so that no matter where you go, whether from here to McAllen or Laredo, you'll have that information available to you," Lombardo said.

RGVHIE is halfway through its pilot year, and already has all but two Valley hospitals involved.

Luna says they will continue to fine tune the information exchange system before more people are signed up.

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