As the first state to meet all the requirements of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for a state health information exchange (HIE) strategic and operational plan, New Mexico is moving full steam ahead on HIE expansion. But even more importantly, it is planning to begin measuring the clinical and financial impact of HIE.
Created in 2004, the not-for-profit New Mexico Health Information Collaborative (NMHIC) is both the state-designated entity operating the statewide HIE and the regional extension center for New Mexico. NMHIC currently connects 13 hospitals, two major medical groups, and two major clinical laboratories, says Jeff Blair, director of health informatics at LCF Research in Albuquerque, which runs NMHIC in partnership with technology vendor MedPlus, a Cincinnati-based subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics.
Blair says that as LCF uses $7 million in ONC funding to add more providers to the network, it also has begun providing e-reports to state public health officials on reportable conditions. “This is an important step forward in automating something that used to require manual processes and faxes,” he said.
With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, LCF next will try to assess NMHIC’s impact on the quality and cost-effectiveness of care among Bernalillo County, N.M., providers, measuring clinician use as well as the extent to which the HIE reduces duplicate diagnostic radiology and laboratory tests. “This is important, because if we are going to spend all this money on HIE, we want to know it is making a difference,” says Maggie Gunter, president of LCF, “and we want to engage the community with that information all along the way.”
Gunter said it took a long time to get all the stakeholders in New Mexico working together in order to create a data source of real value, but now it is becoming a reality.
NMHIC was part of a NHIN (National Health Information Network) demonstration project in 2007, and those efforts are continuing to pay off. It has been awarded a $1 million contract from the Social Security Administration to demonstrate electronic disability determination over NHIN, and is working on care coordination pilot projects with the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Administration.
To make greater progress on funding sustainability, LCF has added healthcare executives to its board and created a sustainability task force. “They are making a real commitment,” Blair says, “to identify ongoing sources of funding.”