Major players in healthcare information technology announced alliances and pledged to work together toward common causes last week.
Among the deals: "strategic investments" in RelayHealth Corp. by McKesson Corp. and Cisco Systems; a pledge to join lobbying forces by the American Health Information Management Association and the American Medical Informatics Association; and an interoperability agreement between Snomed International, which develops clinical-code terminology, and Health Level 7, which makes a visual tool for recording clinical data."What we've learned is that there are too many groups and too many voices all advocating very similar positions," said H. Stephen Lieber, president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. "We're all talking about harmonization."
The deals take place amid increased federal efforts to spur the development of healthcare IT standards and broader IT use by providers and payers.
The RelayHealth deal anticipates an expansion of physician reimbursement for online communication with patients. Among other offerings, RelayHealth provides webVisits, a service that allows physicians to conduct online consultations and be reimbursed. Ten health plans are participating.
McKesson and Cisco will become minority shareholders in RelayHealth, RelayHealth's Senior Vice President of Marketing Eric Zimmerman said. He declined to disclose the value of the investments. The financing will allow RelayHealth to grow geographically and boost its product line, particularly in disease and care management, Zimmerman said.
"We almost always have a parallel view where things ought to go with creating an information-technology infrastructure for this country," said Don Detmer, president and chief executive officer of Bethesda, Md.-based AMIA, which has 5,000 members who work in medical informatics. Chicago-based AHIMA has about 50,000 members in medical-records management.
Both Detmer and AHIMA CEO Linda Kloss said the lobbying alliance was not a precursor to a merger. "By joining, we can leverage what we are doing a little bit better," Kloss said.
Meanwhile, the arrangement between Snomed, a division of the College of American Pathologists, and Ann Arbor, Mich.-based HL7, formalizes a pact to ensure the interoperability of Snowmed's clinical vocabulary and HL7's reference information model.