November 20, 2013.
Health information exchange improving coordination of care in 12 rural counties.
Kenneth Kizer, UC Davis
Communication of clinical information needed to provide safe and effective, high quality health care is now easier in 12 rural California counties as a result of an initiative launched earlier this year by the UC Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement (IPHI).
Through nearly $775,000 in grants awarded under IPHI’s California Health eQuality (CHeQ) program to four designated health information exchange (HIE) providers, the adoption of HIE is significantly accelerating in rural California. As a result of CHeQ’s Rural HIE Incentive program, HIE options for exchanging patient care-related information electronically have been created for more than 30 acute care and critical access hospitals, community clinics and behavioral health providers, serving nearly 3.5 million rural Californians. More than 700 physicians in these 12 counties will benefit from having better access to patient information.
CHeQ also is targeting an additional $200,000 to fund “Direct” accounts, a service much like secure email, to individual physician offices, small clinics, hospitals, and other providers in these rural counties that are not yet served by a health information organization or have HIE options. The Direct service will become available in early 2014.
Health information exchange refers to the secure electronic communication of health-related information among doctors, hospitals and other providers so that they have important patient-related information wherever and whenever it is needed to support patient care. Establishing HIE services to support electronic communication of health information in rural areas has proven to be particularly challenging, which is why IPHI launched the Rural HIE Incentive Program. HIE options for some areas were largely inaccessible or simply did not exist.
“Patients in rural areas often have to travel long distances to multiple different health care providers to get needed care — especially for medical specialist service — increasing the likelihood that some providers will not have all the information they need,” said Kenneth W. Kizer, IPHI’s director and a distinguished professor at UC Davis. “CHeQ’s rural HIE incentive initiative has provided a catalyst for developing these services in large areas of California. This will result in better coordination and higher quality patient care being provided in these areas.”
Redwood MedNet of Ukiah, one of the four Rural HIE Incentive Program awardees, knows how beneficial HIE is to their rural communities.
“The Rural HIE Incentive Program has been extremely useful for us,” said William Ross, Redwood MedNet program manager. It adds HIE functionality to low-resource facilities such as community clinics and critical access hospitals in historically underserved areas.”
In addition to Redwood MedNet, the three other service providers under the Rural HIE Incentive Program are Inland Empire HIE (Riverside), Orange County Partnership Regional Health Information Organization (OCPRHIO) (Orange) and Axesson (Santa Cruz).
The 12 counties benefitting from this initiative are Colusa, Fresno, Humboldt, Kings, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Luis Obispo, Solano, Sonoma, Tulare and Yolo.
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