Transforming Health IT in Western New York

Author: Dan Porreca – Executive Director, HEALTHeLINK


When it comes to health IT in Western New York (WNY), HEALTHeLINK’s goal is pretty straight forward: Promoting the use of technologies that support the Triple Aim – Better Health, Better Care, and Lower Costs. Since our first physician came on board in 2008, we have continued to create solutions for our local health care system through significant local, state and federal investment and through collaboration in the meaningful exchange of health information. The solutions we enable in Western New York are examples of just a few of the ways New York State is leading the charge when it comes to transforming health IT.

Using the local stakeholder and New York State HEAL grant investments going back to 2006 to establish our technology foundation, HEALTHeLINK was proud to have been selected as one of 17 Beacon Communities nationwide charged with building and strengthening health IT infrastructure, and testing innovative approaches to make measureable improvements in health, care, and cost. Today almost all of our area hospitals, representing 98% of the beds in WNY, are connected. More than 95% of laboratory results and 85% of radiology reports in WNY are flowing through HEALTHeLINK. In addition, we have developed interfaces with four home health care agencies and three long term care facilities to allow for better transitions of care coordination. And through participation in the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program, there is an exchange of veteran patient data that can flow in to and out from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Hospitals) to enhance treatment for our veterans no matter where they seek care.

Use of HEALTHeLINK continues to grow in WNY as today nearly 3,000 providers are HEALTHeLINK users. Of these approximately 1,000 are receiving data results directly into their own electronic medical records and more than 550 have the ability to communicate electronically by sending information directly from their EMR to another treating doctor’s EMR for referral purposes enhancing care transitions. The patient query function continues to grow at a rapid pace as over 324,000 queries were performed in 2012 – a 197% increase over 2011. And the monthly query numbers continue to rise at an equally gratifying pace in 2013.

While HEALTHeLINK has made a number of noteworthy advances in health IT, we have still only just begun to realize the full potential it can have in the delivery and quality of our health care system.

Dan Porreca is executive director of HEALTHeLINK, the regional health information organization for the eight counties of western New York State. For more information, please visit