IBM Software to Enhance HealthBridge Beacon Program HIE in Cincinnati

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2011-11-21

IBM Software to Enhance HealthBridge Beacon Program HIE in Cincinnati

Nonprofit health IT vendor HealthBridge has announced the use of IBM's Initiate Patient software to bolster an existing health information exchange (HIE) for the Cincinnati region.

Formed in 1997, HealthBridge is a leading HIE organization that serves Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio (the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky region). It consists of 50 hospitals, 800 physician practices and 7,500 physicians.

HIEs are intended to increase connectivity among electronic health record (EHR) databases so that doctors, lab technicians and insurance companies can access the necessary documents and images-patient histories, X-rays, lab reports and prescription data-to coordinate care.

HealthBridge is a partner in the Greater Cincinnati Beacon Collaboration (GCBC), a group of health care organizations in the region that intends for the sharing of patient data to improve health outcomes and transition of care while lower health care costs.

The federal Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology awarded Cincinnati a Beacon Community Program grant in September 2010.

Beacon is an initiative by the ONC that provides funding for 17 communities that have shown innovation in adopting secure EHR and HIE platforms, but are looking to strengthen their platforms while increasing the quality of care and lowering health care spending.

Cincinnati's HIE focuses on patients with adult diabetes or childhood asthma, Keith Hepp, interim CEO of HealthBridge, told eWEEK.

HealthBridge is creating community disease registries to keep track of patients with these conditions.

When multiple doctors have access to vital health information, it makes continuity of care possible and provides doctors with information on population health to treat chronic conditions.

IBM Initiate Patient is an enterprise master patient index that will enable doctors accessing the HealthBridge HIE to access a single view of patient records, Sean Cassidy, IBM director of health care products, told eWEEK.

Because the names and addresses of patients vary from one provider's health record to another, the probabilistic matching technology of Initiate Patient is necessary to allow doctors to "connect the dots" on patient records, Cassidy said.

"When you deal with so many different organizations and millions of patients, you need to be able to do all of that matching and be able to scale," he explained.

Initiate Patient also includes a data-stewardship tool to allow doctors to compare records side by side to see if they're related, Cassidy noted. Management tools in the application ensure high quality of data, he added.

In addition, the software supports the Health Level Seven International (HL7) global interoperability standard for health care IT.

Meanwhile, Initiate Patient's Patient Demographics Query (PDQ) profile allows health professionals to manage, update and query patient data, according to Cassidy. The software also supports Patient Identifier Cross-Referencing (PIX) for cross-referring patient records from various patient identifier domains.

HealthBridge announced its use of Initiate Patient on Nov. 18.

IBM Software to Enhance HealthBridge Beacon Program HIE in Cincinnati

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More than 100 health systems in the United States and at least 40 HIEs use Initiate Patient, Cassidy said. That comprises more than 80 percent of the patients in North America, he noted.

On Feb. 21, IBM announced that its Health Integration Framework-which includes Initiate Exchange, Initiate Patient and Initiate Provider-will power an HIE for the nonprofit health system UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Initiate also forms the backbone for HIEs in states such as Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota and Louisiana, Cassidy said.

After the Beacon period ends, HealthBridge will extend the HIE to include patients with other types of illnesses, according to Hepp.

Although the HealthBridge HIE already manages clinical records for patients, Initiate Patient will allow the company to manage clinical information more effectively, he said.

"These are tools that will give physicians and care extenders much more information to proactively treat patients so that people who are prediabetics don't become full diabetic and so they can more effectively manage care to reduce expensive hospitalizations," Hepp explained.

Using Initiate Patient will enable HealthBridge to reconcile different medical record numbers among different patients, he added.

"We looked at multiple technologies, and IBM had by far the most flexible and extensive toolset to manage patient populations and to be sure we know the correct identification of patients in the region," Hepp explained.  

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