The California Health Care Foundation reported in its iHealthBeat publication today that Rhode Island’s Department of Health has awarded a three-year, $1.7 million contract to EDS to design, implement and manage the country’s first statewide electronic health record network.  The health data exchange is expected to go live in summer 2008.  The Rhode Island HIE will consolidate state residents’ health data and provide authorized hospitals, physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers with access to the health records.   

According to a press release today in the Providence Business News, the HIE will be "developed with strict adherence to patient-consent policies and in conjunction with industry best practices with regard to security and privacy standards."   Interestingly, however, Rhode Island appears that it will go with an "opt-in" approach where residents must give permission before their records are stored on the network.  The majority of HIEs and RHIOs use the "opt-out" approach because it is more effective in populating the network with data for exchange.   Without data, the HIE’s purpose falls apart.   Thus, it will be interesting to see if Rhode Island’s HIE can effectively address the functionality, privacy and cost issues that plagued California’s Santa Barbara RHIO, which was formally shut down in March of 2007, as per California’s Community Clinic Voice.