Information Exchange Kicks Off
Information Exchange Kicks Off | Louisiana Health Information Exchange, Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, Jenny Smith, electronic medical records, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The Louisiana Health Information Exchange, which allows hospitals and providers, to electronically access patients’ health records, launched in October, just two months after selecting a technology provider.

Program manager Jenny Smith said all of the state’s large health systems have already given verbal commitments to participate in the exchange.

“We have been out talking to providers and have actually had clinicians’ and providers’ offices say, ‘Hey, we want an exchange, and we want to meet with you guys,’” Smith said. “When we’ve talked to some hospitals, large and small systems, their desire to exchange has been very positive.”

The exchange is being rolled out in three phases. The first phase’s features included a clinical portal; a public health component, including immunizations and electronic lab reporting; and a continuity of care document repository.

The second phase, from January to June, will include transactions from health information exchange-to-health information exchange; direct secure messaging; and single sign on, which allows users to log on once and access multiple software systems without having to log in again and again.

The third phase, July to December, will include case management/analytics; patient access to the health information exchange; quality reporting capabilities; and interstate exchange capabilities.

By the end of 2012, Smith said she expects LaHIE will be statewide, with most of Louisiana’s hospitals and healthcare providers participating.

There will always be some providers who aren’t able to participate or choose not to, she said. But the majority of Louisiana’s population will be covered by the hospitals and providers participating in the exchange.

Within two years, LaHIE will be able to exchange patient data with providers who aren’t part of the exchange, even providers in other states, Smith said.

“So our residents who are receiving care from say, St. Jude or the Mayo Clinic, or somewhere else outside of the state, we’re able to have that data and exchange the data securely,” Smith said. “Patients will have access to their information. By that point we’ll be fully sustainable, and this will be the way care is delivered from a technology perspective.”

Within a year or two, the exchange expects to add an analytics piece on top of the health information exchange, Smith said. This will help hospitals and physicians better provide the appropriate disease management, with the exchange reporting back to facilities on items such as outcomes that have been improved and those that should be focused on for improvement. 

The exchange is an initiative of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum. The not-for-profit organization leads the planning and implementation of health information technology grants contained in 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The forum received a $10.6 million grant in 2010 to implement the statewide health information exchange.

Smith said LaHIE worked for months with the Quality Forum, its board members and stakeholders to come up with a viable business model.

The model includes five-year contracts with an annual license fee based and pricing based on net patient revenue, she said.

“Other HIEs have looked at sustainability based on hospital bed size,” Smith said. “What we heard from hospitals was ‘Just because I have beds doesn’t mean they’re generating revenue.’ So we needed to go another way.”

The exchange is offering an incentive to early adopters, Smith said. The exchange will waive the first year’s licensing fee to any hospital or provider that signs up by June 30; the incentive reduces the cost by $500 or $600.

LaHIE needs to sign up some 30 to 40 hospitals, depending on revenue, to make the exchange sustainable, Smith said. But LaHIE already has verbal commitments for at least that amount, and those hospitals are expected to sign contracts within the first nine months of the year.

“When a hospital signs up with LaHIE, all of its affiliated physicians, any physician with privileges who refers to that hospital, gets access to LaHIE for free,” Smith said. “So there’s no licensing fee for physicians affiliated with those hospitals, and that has been receiving very positive response from hospitals and physicians.”

The health information exchange is also making it easier for providers to achieve meaningful use certification with electronic medical records, Smith said. LaHIE is offering an “EMR Lite” for far less than the $25,000 to $50,000 annual cost of a full-blown electronic medical record.

The annual license fee for the EMR through the health information exchange, for example, will be $2,100, Smith said. And subscribers won’t pay an integration fee for connecting to the exchange, a service that might cost customers of private EMR vendors as much as $8,000.

“I can’t give an exact number but it will save them substantially thousands of dollars,” Smith said.

The health information exchange has already signed contracts with Opelousas General Health System and Lafayette General Health System.

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