An expansive healthcare coalition in southeast Michigan is scheduled to receive the first responses this week from vendors interested in building a computerized data-transfer capability in the region.
At the start, the project envisions nothing more complex than providing a means to move information around an electronic network to streamline healthcare registration and admitting functions, such as insurance enrollment and eligibility for proposed treatments.
But though the initial objective is simple, the breadth of participation will add bulk to the challenge for the Michigan Health Management Information System, the network planned by the Greater Detroit Area Health Council. Its approach will be to connect all participants, including a substantial number outside the healthcare-delivery loop, at the initial stage of development, said Ron L. Beford, vice president for information systems.
The council's membership includes 110 organizations representing employers, organized labor, insurers, hospitals, physicians, government and consumers in a seven-county area. Among the regional health networks represented are the Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Medical Center, Mercy Health Services and Oakwood Health Services Corp.
Planning for the information network got under way in September 1994. Work began in February to design specifications for a community-governed switching mechanism that would route simple transaction data without encroaching on the workings of individual provider or insurer data systems, Beford said.
The council sent out requests for information about the technical capabilities of about 30 vendors, and the deadline for responses was June 19, Beford said. The vendors also were asked how they'd propose to structure a financial relationship with a communitywide governing board, he said.
A $450,000 Great Lakes/Ameritech Partnership Grant helped pay for the formation of the data-transfer initiative, but now the participants are being asked to ante up for the expense of communicating project specifics, evaluating bidders and choosing a contractor, said Beford.
He added that the initiative could bypass a formal request for proposals and proceed with direct negotiations if one of the responses received this week is substantial enough to recommend a particular vendor.
Beford said the Michigan effort dif-fers from the typical organizational focus of community health information networks, which have been driven mainly by healthcare providers. Those CHINs are seeking to extend the reach of the information systems of individual health networks, connecting still-developing computer networks with each other and with those of physicians and clinics, he said.
The information network in southeast Michigan, by contrast, will be fashioned to take into equal account the information needs of employers, including automakers and their trade unions; public-health agencies; and insurers.
Once the links are in place, the automation of registration and admitting information will increase the chances of initial success and acceptance while providing a foundation for eventual collection of information for outcomes reporting, Beford said.
The health council has several concurrent healthcare initiatives under way, including measures to improve community health, restructure healthcare delivery and work with local healthcare-purchaser alliances to get more value out of their contracts with providers.
Its wide-ranging membership in-cludes a number of companies that have bid for CHIN business in other regions. Among those listed in the council's brochure are accounting firms with healthcare practices-such as Andersen Consulting, Coopers & Lybrand, Ernst & Young, KPMG Peat Marwick and Price Waterhouse-and computer networking players Ameritech of Michigan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, Electronic Data Systems, and IBM Corp.
Additional information systems coverage on pages 68-74