Earlier this month the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN) announced the start of a pilot project to connect healthcare providers in the Moab, Utah region with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to better coordinate patient care and improve access to health care services for veterans and service members. “The opportunity to be able to connect to the National Health Information Network [NHIN] will not only provide the connection to the VA, but also provide us the opportunity to connect with other important national entities in the future such as Indian Health Services and the Social Security Administration,” says Teresa Rivera, COO, UHIN. “So, we see this as a step in our long-term plan to provide data to our providers in Utah.”
UHIN leaders launched their clinical health information exchange (cHIE) earlier this year, and are now in the process of connecting the four large hospital systems HCA/MountainStar, IASIS, Intermountain Healthcare, and University of Utah Health Sciences Center (based in Cottonwood Heights, Utah; Franklin, Tenn.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Salt Lake City, Utah, respectively). Two are connected, while the other two going through a Q/A process. UHIN also plans to provide data to the Utah Department of Health focusing on the mandatory reportable diseases.
The connection to NHIN for the VA project will be a relatively quick process. By the end of year UHIN will review and complete the exchange agreement. Then UHIN will enter a priority queue, and most likely finish development in April. Production is slated for July 1, and UHIN plans to use the San Jose-based Axolotl pathway to connect.
Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab, Utah will be amongst the first organization to participate in the pilot. “It will be an interesting dynamic because we are focusing on rural Utah in the Mohab area, and their care is mainly rendered from Grand Junction, Colo. VA, so we will be crossing the state as we exchange data,” says Rivera. She adds that linking up with Quality Health Network (QHN), the Western Colorado health information exchange is on the roadmap for 2011. First on the agenda will be to work out consent issues and create provider directories for the exchange. Another future project will be to link up to the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have initiated four other pilot projects including exchanges in Spokane, Wash., San Diego, Calif., the Norfolk/Tidewater, Va. region, and Indianapolis, Ind. “There were lessons learned concerning consent gathering, how to reach the veterans and education on the information,” says Rivera. “There’s been some refinement of what is included in the continuity of care document because it’s sometimes not helpful for a provider to have 20 years of data.”
“I think the opportunity to connect with NHIN is what excites us the most because it opens up the doors to the future for the exchange,” Rivera adds.