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California Launches New HIE Effort

September 26, 2012
by Jennifer Prestigiacomo
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After much turmoil surrounding the development of a statewide health information exchange (HIE) in California, UC Davis Health System announced on September 25 that leaders at the Institute for Population Health Improvement have established a new HIE organization, the California Health eQuality (CHeQ). CHeQ seeks to improve health-care quality and the coordination of care by using HIE technology to facilitate the rapid flow of information among physician offices, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
Through a 16-month, $17.5 million interagency agreement with the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS), CHeQ will develop and implement HIE programs according to the state's Cooperative Grant Agreement with the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CHeQ will promote healthcare quality and coordination of care by expanding underserved communities' capacities to exchange health information.

In May CHHS announced that the Institute for Population Health Improvement would take over HIE implementation from Cal eConnect, the Emeryville, Calif.-based non-profit, public benefit corporation created to develop California's HIE. Cal eConnect was California's state-designated governance entity from March 2010 to August 2012.

A joint statement from California Health & Human Services and Cal eConnect noted that the Cal eConnect Board determined that as a startup with a large board, it was “not able to move fast enough to implement approved programs," according to a report in California Healthline, a publication of the California HealthCare Foundation.

CHeQ's programs for California's new HIE phase will promote healthcare quality and the coordination of care by expanding underserved communities' capacities to exchange health information or access to Direct, a simple, standards-based way for senders to push secure encrypted health information directly to trusted recipients over the Internet. CHeQ also will improve sharing of immunization, laboratory, and care information and provide tools to assist providers in identifying private, secure, standardized and trusted systems.

Kenneth W. Kizer, director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement, will lead CHeQ. Kizer has a long history of public -and private-sector experience in health-information technology, health-care quality improvement and population health. He has served as chair, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Medsphere Systems Corporation, the nation's leading commercial provider of open-source health-care information technology.

Kizer also was founding president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, a Washington, DC-based quality improvement and consensus standards-setting organization. Before that, he served as the under secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where he led the VA's transition to electronic health records and health information exchange in the late 1990s. He also was the director of the California Department of Health Services (now the California Department of Public Health) from 1985 to 1991, where he initiated a number of leading-edge health-information management and modernization efforts.

"We want care-related information to flow safely and quickly between and among health-care providers. No more printing, scanning and faxing laboratory and X-ray results," Kizer said in a statement. "Through CHeQ, we are committed to advancing use of secure electronic exchanges of information so that care for the patient is better, and the job of providing high-quality care is easier for the caregiver."

"CHeQ's work will help California accelerate progress toward making critical patient information available when and where it is needed for care," said Pamela Lane, CHHS deputy secretary for health information exchange, who is responsible for the state's Cooperative Grant Agreement, in a statement. "Under the guidance of the Institute for Population Health Improvement, the new organization will also enable us to achieve an important long-term goal for health information exchange—using data to improve population health outcomes in California."

CHeQ will be a highly collaborative effort among CHHS, other state agencies and the full range of California health-care stakeholders -- patients, health care professionals, payers, providers and health plans. A CHeQ advisory committee and task-specific subcommittees will be appointed; additional information on these activities will be forthcoming in the near future.

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