This article originally appeared on MassLive.
SPRINGFIELD - Get rolled into an emergency room while unconscious and your medical records, including blood type, the medications you are on, allergies and anything that happened when you visited a different emergency room the week prior, might be locked away in a computer system belonging to your doctor or another hospital and inaccessible to the doctors treating you.
"Show up in an emergency room in the middle of the night and you might be in trouble," said Dr. Richard Shuman of RiverBend Medical Group, which has offices in Chicopee, Westfield, Springfield, Agawam and Wilbraham.
That's why RiverBend, Baystate Health, Sisters of Providence Health System which includes Mercy Medical Center, Valley Medical Group and Springfield Medical Associates have all agreed to participate in the Pioneer Valley Information Exchange or PVIX.
The exchange is supposed to be operating by July. Participants and potential participants gathered for a meeting Thursday morning at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place.
It'll be an accessible database of patient records, including visit summaries and discharge reports from hospitals, medication records, allergies and underlying conditions doctors can access at various hospitals and offices, said Dr. Neil R. Kudler, Baystate Health's vice president and chief medical information officer.
Kudler said the effort is related to an emphasis on electronic medical records contained in the federal Affordable Care Act. But the hospitals are not acting only because of federal pressure..
"This is all about the maturation of the technology and the opportunity to make a major impact on the health of the community," Kudler said. That the ACA is mandating inter connectivity only supports what we've been working on for the last 2-3 years."
Baystate and Health New England, the health insurer owned by Baystate Health, are getting the program going with $3.5 million in seed money expected to last five years. It'll be like a co-op run by participants but housed in a Baystate department, Kudler said.
The participating care providers will have costs for their own computer software, but won't have to pay to be part of the information exchange, he said.
Having Baystate and Mercy on the board is especially important to Springfield, Kudler said. The hospitals share a third of their patients in common and the medical records systems cannot talk to one another.
"Maybe in the old paradigm we were all competitors," said Dr. Paul H. Oppenheimer, chief medical information officer at Sisters of Providence. "But in the new paradigm we have to be collaborators."
Accountable care organizations demand information sharing and efficiency. No one can afford to waste time and patient visits dealing with problems that wouldn't arise if information was available.
Kudler said he's been talking with officials at Holyoke Medical Center, Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, North Adams Regional Medical Center and Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and others about joining.
Micky Tripathi, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts e-Health Collaborative, said the information gets shared now by fax and phone or by patients carrying manilla folders of medical data around with them.
"People walk files across the street," he said.
Once the system is up and running it'll open up as an option on the doctor's electronic medical records system. It'll be like a hyperlink on a website, Tripathi said.
Kudler said extremely sensitive information like mental health information and substance abuse histories will be left off.
The system will comply with federal health-care privacy laws because information will not be available to anyone except health care providers that have a relationship with the patient.
Aggregated data from the exchange without identifying information could be mined by researchers, however. Such work could identify clusters of infectious disease or cancer, according to the group.