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CT Struggles to Launch Statewide Health Information Exchange

Connecticut is still in the planning phase after spending $5 million on its fourth attempt to launch a health information exchange.

Connecticut is stalling to launch a health information exchange.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Connecticut healthcare leaders are still facing challenges with launching a health information exchange (HIE) after investing $5 million over nearly 18 months into the project. This is the state’s fourth attempt to establish an HIE.

This attempt at launching an HIE to connect hospitals and healthcare organizations across the state follows three earlier attempts over the past ten years. Connecticut initially began investing millions into an HIE in 2007. The Constitution State intended for the HIE to help providers deliver better-informed patient care by enabling health data exchange and improved EHR patient access across organizations and facilities.

However, since 2007 there has been little progress toward achieving this aim despite a total of $23 million in investments. In this most recent attempt, the project has still not advanced past the planning stages.

A Connecticut Health Information Technology Advisory Council recently expressed frustration to the CT Mirror.

“There is this tension between thoroughness and action, perhaps in our decision-making process that needs to be considered,” Connecticut Chief Information Officer and advisory council member Mark Raymond told the CT Mirror.

Raymond said he predicts the HIE’s launch will likely be delayed another year given how much council members are still focused on continuing the planning phase.

While Connecticut has struggled to get a statewide HIE off the ground, physician-led efforts have been more successful.

In 2017, the Connecticut State Medical Society partnered with KaMMCO Health Solutions to launch CTHealthLink. The network includes Starling Physicians, Southern New England Ear, Nose, Throat, and Facial Plastic Surgery Group, and Soundview Medical Associates.

Already, CTHealthLink is utilizing its patient health data to help stakeholders make progress on public health issues. The three practices connected to CTHealthLink have plans to leverage EHR patient data to improve suicide prevention by participating in a project funded by a $1.9 million, three-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Meanwhile, the state’s own effort to launch an HIE remains at a standstill.

“It’s like a room of caged animals,” said Health Information Technology Officer Allan Hackney. “We got to get something happening really fast.”

While council members are eager to move forward with the project, the group is waiting to receive confirmation that they will gain $11.4 million through a grant from CMS.

The council expects to find out if they will receive the grant by the end of July.

“The funding for the HIE portion has taken longer than I wanted, by a number of months,” said Hackney. “I was hoping that we would be in pilots now, but now it’s not until September-ish, assuming I get my funding.”

If the council does receive the grant, Hackney stated he is confident the council has thoroughly addressed all future aspects of the HIE during its extensive planning phase. Council members have already determined how the HIE will be governed in the long-term.”

“There’s a race to try and get data moving, but you can’t forget to have proper controls,” Hackney said. “You need to be financially sound on the choices that you are making and so on. We are trying to do that in advance.”

Several workgroups part of the council — including grassroots clinician group Cancel Rx — have been meeting consistently since January 2018 to discuss future initiatives and types of information exchange that may be included in the HIE.

The group is spearheaded by Director of Medical Informatics in Family Medicine and professor at UConn Health and council member Tom Agresta, MD.

Agresta and others part of Cancel Rx are working to develop a way for pharmacists and prescribers to more easily communicate through the HIE to prevent opioid misuse.

“This Cancel Rx is important because if you can have an indication of a prescription canceled, that provides clarity (about) the actual medications … a person should be taking,” Hackney said.

The workgroup joined the council to increase the likelihood CMS will grant the HIE $11 million in funding.

“Instead of just operating as a grassroots organization, they can bring some of the recommendations to this body and maybe get funding,” Hackney concluded.

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