Starting Wednesday, 25 hospitals and long-term care facilities on Long Island are the first in the metropolitan area to be able to share patient information electronically.
"This is a start of a revolution to force data from silos for the benefit of patients," Dr. Benjamin Stein, the chief executive of Long Island Patient Information Exchange, said Wednesday at the exchange's formal opening at NUMC.
Funded by about $10 million in state grants and money from participating institutions, the exchange will allow a doctor at one hospital to call up a patient's records - including lab test results, information on allergies, previous diagnoses and discharge records - from any other participating institution the patient has visited.
The goal - supported by the Obama administration - is to reduce errors and save money.
Dr. Kenneth Hupart, chief of endocrinology at NUMC, called the new system "great."
"I'm trying to make the best diagnosis, but if I only have part of the health care history, I may not be able to provide the best care, or I might make a serious error," he said.
Ilene Corina, president of PULSE, a Long Island-based patient safety group, agreed.
"This should save time in the emergency room and help prevent a misdiagnosis, she said.
In the next few months other Long Island hospitals are expected to go live with the system, including Catholic Health Services of Long Island hospitals, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, Long Beach Medical Center and New Island Hospital in Bethpage.
Meanwhile, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, the three East End hospitals, a half dozen extended care facilities and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services have formed their own information exchange, called e-Health Network of Long Island.
Citing the infancy of this technological innovation, state health department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said it will be some time before regional networks will be able to cross-communicate.
Linda Shanley, Stony Brook's chief information officer, said Stony Brook is already connected with the Long Island State Veterans Home and expects to be connected by the end of the year with Southampton Hospital.
Winthrop will be connected early next year, said Maureen Gaffney, chief medical information officer.