In one of the most ambitious efforts to build a community health information network, the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council launched a feasibility study in November that asked for commitment from nearly 100 providers.
The $300,000 study, financed by the council's 93 member hospitals, sought to sort out concerns of area hospitals, physicians, payers and employers, said Karen Hackett, the council's vice president.
A number of hospitals in the area were looking at CHIN development and were more aware and involved than others, she said. The council decided to harness the interest and gauge whether the market's providers were ready for such a network, she said.
An initial questionnaire sought to determine the level of information-system sophistication at participating provider institutions. A series of informational briefing sessions launched the initiative, and eventually the effort crystallized into about 20 focus-group sessions.
Some focus groups were just for hospitals, others just for physicians. The physician brainstorming sessions were conducted in conjunction with the Illinois State Medical Society. Payers and employers had their own groups.
"We started out each focus group with a bit of an education," Ms. Hackett said. The preface brought all participants up to a shared level of understanding about the concept of a CHIN and the range of options for information exchange.
The exercise identified some common priorities. For example, it underscored the importance of two-way interchange of information between physician and hospital, as well as physician-to-physician linkage for consultations and other communication needs, Ms. Hackett said.
There also were common worries. "Uniformly, everybody had the same concern: patient confidentiality. How do you protect the patient?" she said.
A steering committee of chief information officers at member hospitals recommended in March that the project move to the next phase, which will nail down specifications for a regional system, write a request for proposals from vendors and start the process of vendor selection. At last count, 74 of the council's 93 hospital members were on board.