A Milwaukee-based healthcare data-transfer network has made a move to become a statewide force by enlisting an independent practice association that sprawls across 30 counties in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Health Information Network struck a group-purchase deal and won an endorsement from the Community Physicians' Network, which has 450 primary-care and 300 specialty physicians under contract at 175 mostly rural locations in central, western and southwestern Wisconsin.
The IPA's management said it will offer free software, installation, phone-line charges and training to its primary-care physicians as incentives to sign up. Physicians who commit to a five-year contract with the IPA will get a voucher that could cover up to a third of computer hardware costs. Doctors also get an undisclosed break on WHIN's annual fee.
About 100 clinic sites, comprising 250 to 300 doctors, are expected to take the deal, said Gary Busack, director of planning and development. Multiple physicians can pool their vouchers at a single location, he said.
The information network is only 3 years old but is considered the only functioning example of comprehensive regional health data exchange in the nation. Scores of other community health information networks, or CHINs, are in the development and testing stages.
Formed as a joint venture between Ameritech Corp. and Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care, WHIN's presence has been limited largely to hospital-based organizations in the Milwaukee area and adjacent counties along Lake Michigan.
Until the Community Physicians' Network deal, Madison-based Dean Health Systems was the largest physician group in WHIN and the only customer outside eastern Wisconsin. Its 350 physicians at 21 clinics recently began a partnership with Aurora, which operates 10 hospitals and 18 physician groups (Oct. 30, 1995, p. 19).
Under the CPN deal, electronic services to physicians will include processing of referrals, e-mail communication, determination of patient insurance eligibility, submission of electronic claims, and access to such outside sources as the national medical data bank, the Internet, and databases for educational and outcomes studies.