By Nadine Robin

March 15, 2010, is a date that will never be found in the history books, yet it’s an important one for Louisiana residents: It’s the day the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum received word from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that we’d been awarded a grant to build a statewide health information exchange (HIE) in Louisiana.  

There were only six of us in a small office on that date four years ago, but there were countless individuals across the state who helped work on the grant proposal. Today, the Quality Forum has grown to include 35 employees and moved to a larger office, and our list of collaborative partners continues to expand. But one thing hasn’t changed: our volunteer board, committees and other volunteers remain the key to our success.  

After the initial award, we focused on stakeholder engagement – bringing together providers, payers, and consumer representatives to plan a path for health information exchange in Louisiana. We went on to launch LaHIE in November 2011. Our pilot hospitals, Lafayette General and Opelousas General, continue to be recognized for their innovation, most recently receiving recognition for being among the "Most Wired" hospitals in the nation. Meeting so many of our hospitals, providers and stakeholders and seeing their enthusiasm for what health IT can do to improve care in their communities has been our extreme pleasure.  

To date, LaHIE has participation agreements with more than 190 hospitals, providers, home health companies and other health care organizations across the state, and these numbers continue to grow. That’s just the technology part, though… bigger than the technology is our focus on improving care for patients. To date, more than 630,000 patients have their information available at the point of care at LaHIE participating organizations. In fact, in the time it took you to read this article, at least two or three new patients have been added to LaHIE.

Today is also a day of significance for LaHIE: March 14, 2014, is the final day of federal funding for our state's health information exchange.  In a way, we are glad to see this “end date” pass. The fact that we are still growing strong means we laid the right foundation and that we can now proceed without an “end” - only a laser-focus on improving the quality of health care in Louisiana. We would be remiss, however, to not acknowledge those who helped us as a result of this federal effort.  So, to those who worked to make LaHIE a reality - to every employee of LHCQF, past and present; every stakeholder volunteer; every organization that helped us spread the word about LaHIE; every ONC project officer, grantee, or contractor who shared ideas and time with us; every participant of LaHIE – thank you! 

Yet the work is not done. As LaHIE has grown, so has our vision for the benefits it will bring to health care in Louisiana. We foresee the development of value-added services designed to improve health at the community level, a registry of end-of-life care wishes and treatment plans, the roll-out of a patient-friendly portal that will provide Louisiana residents with access to their personal health information…. Even as we close the first brief chapter in LaHIE’s short history, we are already looking to the future. 

And in a few years, we will look back on today as one more milestone on a long timeline. It has taken countless individuals giving of themselves to grow LaHIE into what it is today, and while we are proud of what we’ve accomplished in four short years, we know there is a bright future ahead for LaHIE.

To quote the old Bachman-Turner Overdrive song, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”