The Indiana Health Information Exchange is debuting its year-old quality improvement and patient data-monitoring service for the first time outside of the greater Indianapolis area, the exchange announced.
The Indianapolis-based regional health information organization calls the service Quality Health First.
The free service has since attracted more than 900 physician users, according to an IHIE news release. An estimated 300 or so additional physicians will be able to access the service through its extension 70 miles north to Lafayette and its sister city, West Lafayette, home to Purdue University, which also shares a campus with Indiana University in Indianapolis.
The IHIE bills the service as a “quality-reporting tool for primary-care physicians” that can be used regardless of whether they have an electronic health-record system in their practices. The service targets patients with chronic illnesses and conditions, including high cholesterol, asthma and diabetes. The service provides physicians with monthly summaries to track their patients with chronic illnesses “to improve overall patient health and wellness,” according to a synopsis of program activities on the IHIE Web site.
It takes data from laboratories and prescriptions, but also from claims and from the physicians themselves.
“We take data however people are willing to send it to us,” says J. Marc Overhage, M.D., president and CEO of the IHIE. That includes via a Web portal, secure messaging or on paper. “We'll take data however we can get it.”
Data are drawn on 27 quality measures, all approved by the National Quality Forum, Overhage says.
The availability of old-fashioned ground transportation will be important to the data-exchange program because, unlike the data-gathering process, which is electronic, the data dissemination program will be done in face-to-face meetings with one of five traveling “physician liaisons” who drive to the physicians' offices and hand deliver their data reports either on paper or a removable data-storage drive, according to IHIE spokeswoman Jenny Siminski.
“When you first look at these reports, it can be kind of complex,” Siminski says. “We don't just hand over this information.” The liaisons work with physicians and practice staff to develop strategies to “make sure office staffs can get folks in for testing that need testing, so they can increase their scores.”
“It's a pretty labor-intensive program,” Siminski says. “We're learning. We're trying to find out what's the best way to handle that right now.”
The liaisons are nurses “by and large trained on quality improvement,” Overhage says.
“This is a quality-improvement program,” Overhage says. “In a few months, we hope to be able to say what that impact is. We're big on the physician engagement part of this. It's critical that physicians believe the information, understand the information and incorporate it into their practice. If you push this stuff out on a portal, that doesn't get them asking the key questions. We've found that early on, that personal touch is one of the best ways to do that.”
The physicians who participate in this program can earn 50 hours of continuing medical education credit, Overhage says.
The Quality Health First service was in the planning stages in 2007, according to an IHIE annual report for that year, and was rolled out in 2008 in the Indiana capital, which is home to the Indiana University Medical School, drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co., and WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurance company—all participants in the IHIE. No. 2 insurer UnitedHealth Group, recently joined the IHIE, which was co-founded in 2004 by BioCrossroads, a government- and private-sector partnership to boost the state's life sciences industry.
The IHIE took over as the governing body of the organization, which was founded decades earlier by the venerable Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University, a pioneer in medical informatics that retains an active role in IHIE operations. The IHIE has received multiple federal and private grants, either on its own or through Regenstrief.
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