Electronic Health Records

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Arizona Eliminates State HIE Fees for Community Members

By Sara Heath

Providers interested in participating in health information exchange (HIE) programs have faced serious barriers when it comes to membership costs. However, in a recent attempt to curb those costs and increase participation, the state of Arizona has implemented new payment models for community members.

In late August, The Network, Arizona’s statewide HIE system operated by Arizona Health-e Connection (AzHeC), voted on a program that would not require community members to pay participation fees, according to a recent statement.

Effective on October 1, the state will implement an adjusted payment structure that would alleviate community members of all fees. Under this new payment model, hospitals and healthcare plans will bear the brunt of the costs, including those previously covered by community members. However, AzHeC makes it clear that although hospitals and healthcare plans will be paying a larger percentage of costs, the total cost of the program is decreasing, according to AzHeC officials.

“Participation fees are based on the total number of participating entities and organizations,” said Melissa Kotyrs, CEO of AzHeC and The Network. “Although hospitals and health plans are taking on a greater percent of operating costs, hospitals and health plans will see lowers fees in 2016 because the total number of participating hospitals and health plans has increased.”

The organization made this decision because it wanted to see increased participation, and therefore increased interoperability. As reported by HealthITInteroperability.com, costs have presented several hurdles in HIE adoption for various healthcare providers. In fact, cost alone has been enough to hinder critical access hospitals from adopting HIE at a community level, nevermind at a state level. In addition to the costs of HIE, the fact that providers have priorities in implementing ICD-10 and meeting meaningful use standards causes HIE participation to fall further by the wayside. This new payment model seeks to absolve that problem, and increase quality of care by allowing community members to securely share in patient information exchange.

“With more Arizona providers participating in ACOs and all providers facing a future of value-based reimbursement, it is increasingly important to improve care coordination and maintain more comprehensive patient records through participation in the statewide HIE,” said Frank Marini, CIO of Tucson Medical Center and board chairman of The Network. “We not only want to remove a critical barrier to participation, we also recognize the value of securely sharing valuable patient data with community providers.”

With this new payment model comes a handful of new operating system components, as well. These will all be bundled under the same participation fee and will be made available to all participants. New services include bidirectional exchange, provider and payer portals, direct secure email, alerts and notifications within various departments of a facility, public health reporting, and e-health exchange.

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