December 3, 2023

Bits: Big Medical Groups Begin Patient Data-Sharing Project

The ideal of computerizing patient records is captured in the words behind the government’s aspirational acronym, N.H.I.N., for Nationwide Health Information Network.

The vision includes not only the efficient collection and use of digitized patient records to help physicians make smarter, more cost-effective diagnoses, but also the sharing of information by far-flung doctors and hospitals. A person walks into a clinic in Phoenix, say, and, with permission, her records from her hometown physician’s office in San Francisco are efficiently summoned with a mouse-click.

Across much of the country, that ambitious vision lies well in the future. After all, only about one quarter of the nation’s doctors even use computerized patient records today. The Obama administration is offering billions of dollars in incentives over the next five years — up to $44,000 per physician — to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records.

But five leading medical groups — pioneers in the use of electronic health records — are announcing on Wednesday a project intended to exchange patient information. It is intended as an elite forerunner of the national health information network, spanning several states and millions of patients.

The five are Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare and Group Health Cooperative. They are calling their project the Care Connectivity Consortium.

“Our groups have all seen great results internally,” George Halvorson, chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, said in an interview. “The challenge is to connect with other systems.”

Many local and regional programs for sharing data among medical groups, known as health information exchanges, are already underway. Indeed, the legislation to stimulate the adoption of electronic medical records includes grants for setting up such community information exchanges.

But the consortium of the five big groups represents a step beyond those efforts in scale. For patients, Mr. Halvorson said, the most common uses would be referrals from one system typically to specialist physicians in another, or walk-in patients (the Phoenix-San Francisco example above).

The leaders of the five medical groups have worked on the consortium for the past six months, and it was put together in face-to-face meetings and with e-mail volleys, Mr. Halvorson said. The conversations began among the chief executives, and then the chief information officers were brought in.

“The C.E.O.’s had to make sure the C.I.O.’s didn’t think this was crazy or impossible,” Mr. Halvorson said. Some data-sharing among the five groups is intended to begin this year.

Are there business implications to the consortium? After all, some of the groups have their own insurance arms, including Kaiser, Intermountain and Geisinger. Electronic health records typically include reporting and billing information. Are the groups assembling a potential rival to national insurers like UnitedHealth, Aetna and Wellpoint?

Nothing of the kind, Mr. Halvorson insists. “This is totally focused on care,” he said.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind