Connecticut, a state that has struggled to create a statewide health information exchange, may soon have two. CTHealthLink, created by the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS), is now live and offers clinicians access to patient data, as well as patient portals, data analytics tools, and population health solutions.
Meanwhile, the state is looking to restart its own efforts. A state health IT official recently told the Hartford Business Journal that an advisory board is considering several potential models, including HIEs in Michigan and Maryland. He said the state could fund the launch with federal funds granted to Connecticut's State Innovation Model program, as well as allocations from the state's capital budget.
An earlier statewide HIE effort, the Connecticut’s Health Information Technology Exchange, was shut down in 2014 after spending $4.3 million in federal grant money over four years. A state auditor’s report noted that the exchange was never able to provide services to stakeholders and thus, never developed a self-sustaining revenue stream.
CSMS President Jeffrey Gordon, M.D., chair of the CTHealthLink advisory committee, said his organization hopes to learn from the state’s past mistakes.
“We are aware of the efforts that have struggled,” he said. “The state of Connecticut has been trying for years to come up with a statewide HIE. We recognize from talking with physicians and hospitals that there is still a need. We did a lot of research looking across the country at what has worked and what hasn’t.”
Rather than building something from scratch, CSMS chose to partner with KaMMCO Health Solutions, which built the HIE in Kansas, the Kansas Health Information Network, and is working on technology solutions for Georgia and South Carolina. Gordon stressed that the “turnkey” HIE for Connecticut will not require any Connecticut taxpayer funding. There are no upfront costs for providers. Their costs are incurred as they begin using CTHealthLink products and services. “We have it broken up by size of physician groups and size of hospitals,” he added, with discounts for joining for more than one year.
Gordon said that in his own experience as a blood and cancer specialist, he has experienced barriers to getting patient information and doing reporting to regulatory groups. “The No. 1 priority is that it will be allow hospitals and physicians to access the real-time patient data needed in the office,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I see a patient and they have gotten care someplace else, and I can’t access that data right away. Now, with this HIE, I am going to be better able to access that data in real time sitting in my office or on the computer in the hospital and do more than I could before.”
“We have been getting interest from the hospitals across Connecticut and are in the process of signing up a number of them,” he said. “The advantage we have is that this is not a state-run system, so we don’t have the huge bureaucracy the state will have. We have a system is proven. The model we are using is already up and running in Kansas, and they have a very successful and sustainable model.” He said the CSMS already has a good working relationship with hospitals. “We are just building on that track record,” he said.
Speaking of the state effort, Gordon said the state is just starting out and is facing a big challenge because Connecticut is experiencing a budget crisis. “Also, the state does not have a good track record in regard to working with hospitals. They don’t tend to get along too well.” The state HIE would be a competitor to CTHealthLink, he said, adding, “Frankly, there is no need for two.”