Power Women 2013: Karen Thomas

Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Main Line Health; Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania

If information is power, then Karen Thomas is one of the most powerful women in the region. In addition to being senior vice president and chief information officer of Main Line Health, she’s vice chair of the board of directors for HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania, an organization orchestrating the next electronic evolution in patient care.

HSX is creating technologies and protocols to allow for the immediate, secure transmission of patients’ electronic health records between physicians, pharmacies, insurance companies and the 40 acute-care hospitals in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Bucks counties. “My doctor may refer me to a specialist, and I may have to be hospitalized. Those doctors and nurses should have my information so I don’t have to transmit or translate it,” says Thomas.

That’s especially important in emergency situations, when the closest hospital may not be affiliated with a patient’s main healthcare network. “The goal is for all medical professionals who care for a patient to have the same information,” she says.

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Logical? Yes. Easy? No. HSX’s biggest challenge is not the technology, but the humans using it. The nonprofit HSX was created to spearhead the effort. The goal is to have the systems finished by 2014. Early adopters will run pilot programs this fall. “The hard part is changing the way we work with the information—how we access it, protect it and explain it to patients,” Thomas says.

And Thomas seems up to the challenge.

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