Health Care and Technology

HIE reaches participation milestones

Great Lakes Health Connect strives to improve efficiency and value of patient care.

July 24, 2015
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A Grand Rapids-based Health Information Exchange continues to grow, as medical practices, providers and organizations connect with the network and leverage clinical data solutions to improve coordination of patient care.

Great Lakes Health Connect announced July 20 the community-based network not only surpassed a goal to have 1,000 medical practices participating in its closed-loop referral application, but also will soon reach nearly 1,000 provider practices linked to the state’s immunization registry.

Doug Dietzman, executive director, said although Great Lakes Health Connect didn’t start out with a specific goal in terms of participation numbers, more organizations engaged with the platform result in improving the efficiency and value of patient care.

“Our goal is to provide value, but as we are trying to figure out how we measure that — define that, we certainly talk about a network of folks who all are working together facilitating transition of care,” said Dietzman.

“It is one small metric — perhaps not the most important — but one metric that we are making a difference, we are getting scale, we are connecting providers across the state together in the same platform.”

Carrie Strom, network referral manager with Mercy Health Physician Partners, said the network’s referral application has allowed the group to send details and records on each referral electronically, eliminating “phone tag.”

“The system has allowed our primary care offices to better track their referrals for follow-through and has given our specialty offices a way to sort and pace their incoming referral volume,” said Strom. “The referrals application has become an indispensable tool throughout our network.”

The application is intended to reduce inefficiency when transitioning patient care among providers and to improve patient care by eliminating the amount of information falling through the cracks, as sometimes happens with traditional referral management, according to Dietzman.

“The speed with which patients can be scheduled, the knowledge in making sure all the information that needs to be at the other office is actually there in a timely manner to support that patient care, and really increasing the efficiency,” said Dietzman in reference to the improved patient care. “It is reducing the overhead associated with the process so staff can be reallocated or refocused around other things in care management.”

GLHC recently announced the information exchange had exceeded roughly 1 billion transactions on an annual basis.

Robert Steffel, executive director of the national trade association The Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, said very few health information exchanges in the country have reported transaction volumes close to the amount GLHC has achieved.

“We are very happy GLHC is participating in SHIEC and sharing their expertise in the health information exchange arena with others across the country,” said Steffel.

Brian Ahier, director of standards and government affairs at Medicity in Portland, Oregon, said GLHC has reached an outstanding accomplishment with more than 6.5 million individuals’ data in the network and current monthly transaction volumes representing a processing rate of more than 1 billion messages annually.

“With a fully self-sustaining business model built around providing value to stakeholders, and without taxpayer or other grant funding. Great Lakes Health Connect is a beacon leading the way in health data exchange,” said Ahier.

Currently, the Grand Rapids-based information exchange’s network includes approximately 125 health systems and nearly 4,000 primary, secondary and allied care provider offices across the state.

Participating West Michigan-based hospitals and health systems include Allegan General Hospital, Ascension Health-Borgess Medical Center, Holland Hospital, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Mercy Health Partners-Hackley Campus, Metro Health Hospital, North Ottawa Community Hospital and Spectrum Health.

GLHC’s network also includes community, employer and mental health providers, health departments and health-plan-based organizations such as Mel Trotter Ministries, Network180, Mercy Health Physician Partners, Physicians’ Organization of West Michigan and Priority Health.

“I think the goal of all of this is not the numbers. Our goal is the way care is being delivered, and we have a vast majority of the hospitals in the state participating with us to figure out how to do that the right way,” said Dietzman.

With a mission to create and operate a digital information system promoting secure access, improved patient care delivery, coordination and value, GLHC combines information systems and software with clinical data solutions.

As the community-based nonprofit looks ahead, Dietzman said one area of focus is increasing the number of providers contributing to its Virtual Integrated Patient Record tool.

“It is really a longitudinal health record. For example, a St. John’s Providence patient could show up in Traverse City, run their snowmobile into a tree, end up at Munson Medical Center and, if Munson Medical Center is participating in VIPR solutions, could look up the information contributed by St. John’s Providence,” said Dietzman.

“When the patient goes home to see their primary care physician back in Detroit, that physician can access all the information from Munson that was contributed.”

VIPR allows contributing sources to document patient information such as admissions, discharges, laboratory results, action plans and transcribed documents, which can be accessed by participating health care providers.

As of this month, more than 65 organizations contributed as data sources for VIPR, including St. John hospitals, Trinity Health hospitals, Metro Health, Spectrum Health hospitals, Grand Valley Internal Medicine, Munson Healthcare, Lab Corporation of America and Sparrow Health System.

“One of our goals over the course of the next year, moving forward, is going to be increasing the participation of hospitals, providers and long-term care facilities to really make use of that longitudinal health record to better prepare patients,” said Dietzman.

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