May 21st, 2019
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06/30/2005 - Telehealth Pioneer Earns National Role

Thanks to the pioneering work in health care information networks by INHS (Inland Northwest Health Services), the northwest has been declared a Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) Center – one of only two currently in the United States. The declaration was made at the Capitol Hill Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics meeting in Washington, DC, on June 8. RHIO’s facilitate the movement of electronic medical records between physicians, labs and hospitals across large geographic areas. Electronic records transfer means timely receipt of information, no lost records or images, and fewer medical errors.

Since its inception, INHS has recognized the need for “the seamless, electronic transfer of health care information through the health care continuum,” according to Denny Lordan, Senior Telehealth Consultant. From their headquarters in the Holley Mason Building, INHS operates a private, unified regional network using Internet Protocols (IP). This network is specifically for health care and is the basis for their Information Resource Management Division. As custodian of the networks, INHS creates and implements standards and protocols making all of the networks work together, and making sure that the entire network can be used for data exchange, or video, or voice. INHS is also the trusted source for security. They have implemented security standards, security practices, and are the watchdogs that monitor network security. Additional benefits of their fiber ring and infrastructure include data backup and storage, disaster recovery, redundancy, and bandwidth management. This network is the basis for the Northwest RHIO.

Along with INHS, the Northwest RHIO includes Inland Imaging, Pathology Associates Medical Laboratory, physicians, clinics and other organizations. Altogether, the network includes 32 hospitals and approximately one thousand physicians. “There is a growing awareness in government that partnership based collaboration is the best way to meet the needs of patients in both urban and rural settings,” said Tom Fritz, INHS CEO.

The Steering Committee on Telehealth recognized that quality and safety challenges are facing the health care community, and the fragmented health care system is killing people every year through lack of good records transfer. One problem, even with electronic records transfer, is with the lack of standards and inter operability. There is a need to respect patient privacy, make data easy to use, and comply with national and regional regulations. One of the committee’s goals is to provide federal inter operability standards, minimize the data collection burden, develop standardization based on common functions, and implement proven market technologies.

The plan is to establish RHIO’s in all regions of the US, then to connect the RHIO’s. The establishment of the Northwest RHIO assures that regional health care partners will have a voice as new guidelines for regional health information sharing are evaluated and enacted.

INHS is a non-profit corporation sponsored by Spokane’s hospitals to provide collaborative health care services. INHS companies include St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, Community Health Education and resources (CHER), Children’s Miracle Network, Northwest TeleHealth, Information Resource Management, and Northwest MedStar. For more information, visit

Billie Moreland
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