The Greater New York Hospital Association and the three largest insurers serving that area have formed a company to help emerging health networks integrate information systems and bring insurance tasks on line.
The new limited-liability company, called The Health Information Network Connection, or THINC, aims to use technology originally created for the Internet to connect information systems of hospitals, physicians, laboratories and other sites through private networks called "intranets."
Powering the venture are the capital and participation commitments of Group Health, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York.
Together they represent about 70% of privately insured hospital patients in the New York City area, and they cover 7 million of the 12 million people in New York City and the six New York and New Jersey counties making up the service area.
"When you have these guys as your equity partners, a lot of things happen," said Kenneth Raske, president of the GNYHA and the new board chairman of THINC.
The three insurers and the hospital association each have contributed $750,000, for an initial capitalization of $3 million. They brought in a Dallas-based company called BRC Health Care to be their technology partner.
Using tools developed by Health Network Ventures of Downers Grove, Ill., BRC will size up the specific integration situations of clients and adapt the technology as needed to accomplish integration tasks, Raske said.
BRC also will commit capital to the partnership. The dollar amount has yet to be worked out, but Raske said it will be "in the millions, probably double-digit millions."
The joint venture was conceived in July 1995, during a period in which hospitals and other healthcare-related players in a number of metropolitan areas and states were hot to create regional data-transfer initiatives called community health information networks, or CHINs.
Some of those ventures, such as the Metropolitan Chicago CHIN, became high-profile flops because of failure to work first on connections at the institution level and to sufficiently gain the participation of insurers.
Raske said the New York effort learned from those mistakes and struck a partnership with the big insurers that could deliver immediate value to the initiative.
THINC will include a means to tap into patients' insurance-related information so client hospitals and networks can determine eligibility for coverage and spot managed-care terms that affect care plans.
The software package also includes the ability to link physicians to the network and to schedule appointments, tests and surgeries at different sites. Those capabilities will become available when the initial job of creating a networkwide intranet is completed, the company said.
Raske said demand for creating such networks is booming in New York, which until this year regulated the hospital industry's reimbursement. Deregulation is creating the same incentives for feverish formation of healthcare delivery systems that has been going on elsewhere in the nation for several years.
Eventually a number of intranet-linked health networks will be able to easily create cooperative data-transfer links to and among each other to improve access to patient information, but regionwide transactions won't be a focus of THINC, Raske said.