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Connecting Michigan Providers

February 1, 2011
by Mark Hagland
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Interview: Doug Dietzman, Executive Director, Michigan Health Connect

Exciting things are happening in Michigan, where a broad, regional health information exchange (HIE) has been steadily evolving forward. Michigan Health Connect was officially incorporated in March 2010, and has been eliciting interest across disparate parts of the state. Doug Dietzman is executive director of the Grand Rapids-based information exchange organization. He spoke recently with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding Michigan Health Connect’s development and progress. For more detailed information on Michigan Health Connect, see HCI ’s previous coverage.

Healthcare Informatics: Where are you right now in the development of Michigan Health Connect?

Doug Dietzman: Since we incorporated in March of last year, we’ve brought in seven anchor organizations that include 34 distinct hospitals, spread across the state. Right now, we’re focused on the clinical messaging platform. We have over 500 physician offices connected, receiving results, and if they’re a paper-based office, those results are going into an electronic drop-box, eliminating their faxing; as well as 30 interfaces we’ve developed, representing 19 different vendors.

Doug Dietzman

HCI: Could you explain a bit more about the drop-box mechanism?

Dietzman: Yes, it’s an electronic tool on their desktop; they can decide what and when to print, rather than receiving faxes all day long. The offices receiving the drop-box results are still paper-based. And we’re doing laboratory ordering through us also, and we’ll route those into the lab. We’ve got one of the hospitals primarily focusing on that.

HCI: Please tell us a bit about the origins and foundational strategies of Michigan HealthConnect.

Dietzman: The state of Michigan, going back a few years, had provided planning grants and had given each of several regions planning dollars, and west Michigan, centered around Grand Rapids, was one of those several regions designated as ‘medical trading areas.’ That concept has since been superseded by the HIEs. And Spectrum Health, MetroHealth, and St. Mary’s Hospital (part of the Trinity Health system), each of those key organizations had independently selected Novo Innovations as its HIE vendor; Novo Innovations is now a part of [the Salt Lake City-based] Medicity.

HCI: So there was a fortunate confluence, as three of the anchor hospital systems had chosen the same vendor?

Dietzman: That’s right; and they were going to independently send results to physicians, and everyone agreed that it would be crazy to do so. These competitors agreed it would make the most sense to collaborate on clinical data exchange, which ultimately coalesced into the HIE concept.

And as those informal conversations were happening, Lakeland Health System in the St. Joseph area in the far southwest part of the state, chose the same vendor, and said they wanted to join. And then Northern Michigan Regional Health System in Petoskey had, through their planning grant, come to the decision to choose Medicity; but the state didn’t have any money. So they stepped off the curb and joined the HIE as well. And since then, we added McLaren Health System in Flint, and the five ministries of Ascension Health that are in Michigan as well.

HCI: Tell us about the go-live dates on the different functionalities.

Dietzman: I mentioned the sharing of laboratory orders—with 121 locations, which could include a community hospital or a physician office, and there are about 8,300 orders being transmitted every month. Another solution involved in the HIE is a scheduled-orders application, primarily focused right now on radiology. And right now, there are 64 offices that have been rolled out, and there are about 610 orders a month being created. And lastly, we’re just getting started with physician referrals, and we’ve got six physician offices live so far.


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