MSMS teams with Covisint to link doctors

November 21, 2008
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Starting in 2009, 15,000 doctors across Michigan will have the opportunity to connect to each other via a new Michigan State Medical Society-branded World Wide Web portal.

Free for members, MSMS Connect is intended to give doctors an easy way to access services such as a secure physician-to-physician message system, e-prescribing, patient registries and, eventually, health information exchanges and regional health information organizations, said Dr. Greg Forzley, chair of the MSMS board of directors. Forzley also is medical director of informatics at Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids.

Covisint, the health care subsidiary of Compuware, will provide the technology for MSMS Connect operations, Covisint Vice President for Healthcare Brett Furst said.

“It’s important for us to make sure the Michigan State Medical Society is in the technology game,” Forzley said. “We’ve done a lot of things for individual physicians who want to do quality reporting, do pay for performance (extra reimbursement from insurers for meeting quality benchmarks). This was an opportunity to do something in a bigger way, to touch everyone who is a member.”

Health care has been notoriously slow to adopt information technology, deterred by cost and time. Most doctors’ offices use computers for billing and scheduling, but few physicians use technology for clinical purposes, Forzley said.

“The key with all of this is, you’ve got to start at the place where many of our physicians are, and many of them aren’t using computers in their clinical practice in a day-to-day setting. It gives them an opportunity to test the technology waters.”

The portal will give a doctor a secure sign-in system that then will provide access to the array of services, explained Convisint’s Furst. For example, he said, plans are underway to develop nine health information exchanges in the state, and MSMS Connect would provide access to each.

The only software a doctor would need is an Internet browser, Furst said. Covisint is ensuring that the doctor-to-doctor messaging system meets security requirements to keep information private as required under federal law.

“From the public site of MSMS, which anybody can see, if you are a secured member that’s participating in the service, you can log in there and it would take you into your physician dashboard, which would include, again, applications, e-lab, e-prescribing, access to applications that MSMS is also exploring.

“For example, MSMS has a disease management program that they are going to make available to all their physicians.”

Those functions could help to hold down the cost of health care by improving quality and efficiency, he said.

The system’s business model calls for those organizations that seek access to doctors to pay for the privilege, Forzley and Furst said.

“It’s more of a way that hospitals, labs, e-prescribing vendors, pharmacies — you name it, the state, the (health) plans — can have a single conduit to a large population of physicians,” Furst said.

To keep the system free for MSMS members, those organizations will pay for access to MSMS Connect, Forzley said. He added that physicians who are not MSMS members probably will be allowed access to the MSMS Connect portal for a fee. He said about two-thirds of doctors licensed by the state of Michigan belong to MSMS. The organization also has a tech-savvy student section.

Furst said additional services could be added, such as continuing education and social networking. There may be some charges for certain premium services, much like is done in the cable television industry, he said.

“It’s also an opportunity for MSMS to build a business around their aggregated community worth,” Furst said.

“This is about making it affordable and easy and, hopefully, with a blend of value propositions that the docs will choose to adopt and take time out of their very busy schedules to utilize these tools.”

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