Achievable steps for development of RHIOs highlighted in report by Center for Health Transformation and IDX

Washington 28 November 2005A report released by the Center for Health Transformation (CHT) and IDX Systems Corporation outlines achievable recommendations to spur the adoption of electronic health records and regional health information organisations (RHIOs), based on the best practices of successful health data exchanges. Drawn from discussions among technology experts, public policy analysts, and leaders of thriving regional networks at the CHT Connectivity Conference, held October 18, 2005, the white paper, "Accelerating Transformation through Health Information Technology", highlights proven and practical strategies for health care providers, federal and state policymakers and other stakeholders.

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"Hurricane Katrina made it evident that our disconnected, paper-based health care system is not prepared for an extreme disaster. Given the growing concern about the possibility of an avian flu pandemic or a future bioterrorism attack, the need for a 21st Century Intelligent Health System has never been more acute", stated Newt Gingrich, founder of CHT. "There are communities around the country that are already realizing the power of health information networks. Their strategies, expertise and technology are connecting caregivers in ways that are saving lives and saving money. We now need to put these tools in the hands of providers and people nationwide."

Individuals and organisations participating in the Connectivity Conference included leaders of successful RHIOs from across the United States, Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy, representatives of BlueCross BlueShield and other health care stakeholders. A broad range of conference participants contributed to the report's sixteen specific recommendations, which address issues crucial to creating a successful RHIO and promoting broader adoption of health care information technology.

These include:

  • engaging both the public sector and private sector as funding supporters;
  • developing population-wide health management initiatives;
  • establishing best practices for keeping patient data private and secure;
  • integrating technology systems; and
  • overcoming cultural resistance to change.

Building on analysis of the growing number of RHIOs operating throughout the United States today, the report provides solutions to the real-world challenges of building an interoperable health network. In addition to action items, the report contains case studies on RHIO initiatives operating in diverse regions throughout the United States, including CalRHIO in California; HealthBridge in greater Cincinnati; Indiana Health Information Exchange; the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network; and PeaceHealth in the Pacific Northwest.

"The process of creating RHIOs doesn't happen overnight, it's an evolution", stated Dr. J. Marc Overhage, MD, PhD, CEO and President of the Indiana Health Information Exchange and one of the speakers at the event. "More importantly, the benefits of RHIOs come not from collecting the data, but from using the data to help clinicians work more efficiently, to benefit patient care, and to create return on investment."

In addition to highlighting best practices developed by today's RHIOs, the report also outlines policy recommendations to spur the adoption of health data exchanges. Among other recommendations, the report calls on the federal government to ensure that comprehensive health information is protected across state boundaries by creating a common regulatory framework for health IT, including privacy safeguards. Such measures are included in the Health Information Technology Promotion Act of 2005, introduced last month by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.). This legislation, one of several health IT bills currently in front of national lawmakers, outlines a roadmap to harmonize disparate state privacy laws that will specifically address the privacy requirements inherent to establishing RHIOs.

In his foreword, Newt Gingrich emphasizes the urgent need for Congress to take action on this and other health legislation. "Indications are that our representatives will table pending legislation on health information technology, even though it is an absolutely vital step to averting many of the health care tragedies and challenges we faced in the aftermath of Katrina. Several of the current proposals would foster the creation and development of regional health information organisations with grant funding, regulatory reform, and by driving adoption of technology. If Congress fails to pass such legislation this year, they will miss a critical opportunity to save lives."

"We see every day the difference that health care technology is making in clinicians' ability to provide safer, higher-quality and more efficient care, as well as patients' ability to become active participants in their own health", stated Mike Raymer, senior vice president and general manager, Carecast Operating Unit, IDX Systems Corporation. "We are at a critical juncture of extending these gains to create a digitally connected health care community that supports the highest quality care and seamless collaboration between clinicians. By moving forward with best practices pioneered by today's RHIOs, we will be able to transform health care throughout the United States and even around the globe."

The Center for Health Transformation, founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is a unique collaboration of leaders dedicated to accelerating the adoption of transformational solutions, policies and technologies in order to create a 21st Century Intelligent Health and Healthcare System characterized by better outcomes and more choices at lower cost.

Founded in 1969, IDX Systems Corporation provides information technology solutions to maximize value in the delivery of health care, improve the quality of patient service, enhance medical outcomes, and reduce the costs of care. IDX systems are deployed to serve approximately 150.000 physicians and are installed at over 3400 customer sites, including more than 850 group practices and approximately 370 integrated delivery networks servicing more than 500 hospitals. IDX also provides its enterprise clinical software as a subcontractor to BT, Local Service Provider for the United Kingdom National Health Service's National Programme for Information Technology, an initiative to establish electronic patient records for 50 million patients.

The IDX Web strategy includes browser technology, e-commerce and Web-based tools, built using Internet architecture, that facilitates access for patients, physicians and care providers to vital health information and data managed by the IDX clinical, administrative, financial, and managed care products. IDX has approximately 2400 full-time employees. More IDX news can be found in this VMW issue's article Parkview Health uses Fair Isaac's business rules technology with IDX Carecast to help improve health care services.

The complete report is available on-line at http://www.healthtransformation.net


Leslie Versweyveld

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