Healthcare Business News
Paul Markovich, Blue Shield of California CEO

California Blues plans put up $80 million to fund new HIE

By Joseph Conn
Posted: August 5, 2014 - 12:45 pm ET

California's two Blues insurers are committing $80 million to launch yet another health information exchange in the Golden State, one that its founders claim will initially attract more than 30 of the state's largest healthcare provider organizations.

The California Integrated Data Exchange, a new not-for-profit HIE that goes by the name Cal INDEX, was launched Tuesday by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California.

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After Cal INDEX's first three years, providers will be expected to fund continued operations of the HIE through subscription fees, its organizers said in a news release. The exchange will be open to all healthcare data contributors, they said.

Securing long-term funding has been a stumbling block to the viability of many of the dozens of state and regional health information exchange organizations formed in the past decade, many drawing on $564 million in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Proponents of Cal INDEX say they hope to provide online access to the records of 9 million people using both insurance claims and clinical records.

“If California is going to have affordable, quality healthcare, all players have to do their part to improve the healthcare system,” said Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California. “Although Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross are fierce market competitors, in order to create the scale Cal INDEX needs, we knew we needed to work together. We hope that physicians, nurses, hospitals, regional HIEs, health systems and accountable care organizations will feel the same way, and join us and improve the health of Californians.”

Mark Morgan, president of exchange co-founder Anthem Blue Cross, added that “providers and plans must collaborate to ensure that Californians receive quality healthcare at a sustainably affordable price—and a fundamental component is sharing comprehensive patient information broadly and efficiently. We are committed to moving the health system in California into the digital age and improving access to health data by the provider teams that need it in order to deliver safe, high-quality care.”

“The more doctors and nurses know about a patient, the better care we can deliver," said Lloyd Dean, CEO of the San Francisco-based Dignity Health system. "As a longtime proponent of better communication and information-sharing, Dignity Health is excited that Cal INDEX will help speed up treatment, lower costs, and most importantly, save lives. This is a much-needed innovation whose time has come, and it will benefit thousands who seek care in our 32 hospitals throughout California."

California has seen several health information exchanges fizzle out in the past.

In May 2012, the California Health and Human Services Agency, which received nearly $38.8 million in federal funds from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to promote statewide HIEs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, switched contractors to implement the state's exchange programs. The state anointed the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC-Davis to take over from Cal eConnect, after the organization's board voted to terminate the agreement with the state.

Cal eConnect had become California's state-designated governance entity for HIE for the federal program in March 2010, after California's long-time exchange leader, CalRHIO, disbanded following its failed bid to become the state-designated federal grant contractor in a battle with its rival California eHealth Collaborative.

The California Association of Health Information Exchanges claims more than a dozen local and regional HIEs among its 28 member organizations, including Blue Shield of California and Dignity Health.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn

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