The Wyoming Frontier Information, or WYFI, participation agreement signed by the Johnson County Commissioners on Jan. 7 may not involve wireless internet, but it is all about connecting people.

According to Johnson County Public Health nurse Trisha Thompson, the agreement allows Johnson County to become part of the statewide online health information exchange. WYFI allows patient medical information to be transmitted between medical and health facilities across the state.

“Being part of this system will allow us to pull up labs and medical histories and other medical information on a patient with just a touch of a button,” Thompson said. “In the past, if I was trying to get information on a patient, I would have to fax the patient’s previous provider. Sometimes, when that fax got there, it would be forgotten about, and we might end up dropping the ball on a client. Becoming part of the WYFI system makes that sort of thing less likely.”

In March 2018, the Wyoming Department of Health started to develop a statewide health information exchange in an effort to coordinate the communication of patient health information across the state, according to Dr. James Bush, the Wyoming Medicaid medical director with the Department of Health.

“Currently, providers are struggling to coordinate quality care due to limited access to patient information,” Bush told Business Wire in 2018. Bush said the online health information exchange allows  Wyoming to “build a community of health that will securely place comprehensive, usable data into the hands of our healthcare providers.”

In addition to public health offices across the state, the exchange is also used by 27 hospitals in the state, according to the Department of Health. That number does not now include the Johnson County Healthcare Center, although the center hopes to join the WYFI system in the near future, according to CEO Sean McCallister.

“JCHC intends to participate in this exchange,” McCallister wrote in an email to the Bulletin. “However, we need to build electronic interfaces between our electronic medical record and the State of Wyoming that enable efficient and secure flow of information. That effort is in process but taking longer than expected.”

There is no cost for public health organizations to join the information exchange, Thompson said, and it is likely that having easy access to the health information could improve the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.

“I think we will see an increase in quality of care for our clients,” Thompson said. “We won’t have to spend as many man hours accessing this information from across the state, which will allow us to focus more on quality care.”

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to sign the contract allowing Johnson County Public Health to join the WYFI system.

Stephen Dow covers a variety of beats for the Buffalo Bulletin including the Johnson County Commissioners and JCSD #1. Stephen is a Billings native who joined the Bulletin in 2016.

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