The Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP) is the regional extension center (REC) for 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties and also the statewide health information exchange (HIE). To help its target of 6,000 primary care providers adopting electronic health records (EHRs), OHIP contracted the EHR Prep-Select tool from medical diagnostic equipment maker Welch Allyn (Skaneateles Falls, N.Y.). The tool allows OHIP’s regional partners to assess the readiness of the practice, identify practice needs, create a plan, and guide them through the request for proposal (RFP) process. Amy Andres, chairman of the OHIP board and chief of staff at the Ohio Department of Insurance, spoke to HCI Associate Editor Jennifer Prestigiacomo about why they chose such a tool instead of building one in-house and how they plan on achieving sustainability.
HCI: Can you tell me a little about the background of the OHIP?
Amy Andres: OHIP is actually both the statewide HIE and the REC for 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Essentially, in Ohio, we made a strategic decision to put both programs together; we thought it made a lot more sense. Our state’s governor designated OHIP to be the entity to handle health information exchange. Also, we applied for the REC for the entire state, but the [Cincinnati-based] nonprofit HealthBridge had part of our state, and part of two other states[the REC covers southwestern Ohio, northern and northeastern Kentucky, and southeastern Indiana], so the feds split things up a bit and gave them their market, and gave us the balance of the state.
HCI: Why did you decide to add this assessment tool to your EHR adoption approach?
Andres: First, we went the route of having preferred vendors with a list of five different vendors [Allscripts (Chicago), eClinicalWorks (Westborough, Mass.), e-MDs (Austin, Texas), NextGen (Horsham, Pa.), and Sage (Tampa, Fla.)]. What we saw with the Welch Allyn tool was so unique. When you think about the task at hand, our target for our 77 counties is to bring 6,000 PCPs [primary care physicians] to meaningful use. It’s really important to assess if those physicians and practices are prepared to implement before they even select a particular software. Having them go through a really structured, formal process readies them for the significant task of adopting an EHR. We started off with the notion of trying to create something, but one expert on one of our committees suggested we look at this Welch Allyn tool. They had used it in a previous life and gotten a lot out of it. When we evaluated the tool it was very clear that it was better than anything we could have built on our own. It was pretty much a no-brainer to go this route and select a tool.
HCI: How is OHIP structured, and how did your staff adopt this tool?
Andres: Our thinking was not that OHIP as a body would be hiring a bunch of people and running around the state doing these EHR activities. When we applied for the grant, we had a regional structure with already existing players and infrastructure. So we have seven regional partners; they’re sort of like mini-RECs. They’re doing the actual milestone activity, whereas OHIP is more of an organizing, coordinating body.