IBM Powers HIE for UNC Health Care, Signs Licensing Deal with Emdeon

At the HIMSS11 conference, IBM unveiled a health information exchange with UNC Health Care and a clinical information exchange with payment software vendor Emdeon.

IBM has inked a deal with UNC Health Care System in Chapel Hill, N.C., to power its private HIE (health information exchange) and partnered with application developer Emdeon to collaborate on a patient-centric clinical information exchange.

The IT giant made the announcements at the HIMSS11 (Health Information Management and Systems Society 2011) conference in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 21.

UNC Health Care is a nonprofit health system owned by the state of North Carolina and affiliated with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The HIE with UNC will allow physician practices to connect and share EHRs (electronic health records) for patients they refer into the system, according to Sean Cassidy, IBM's director of health care products, information management.

Providers can also access lab results and radiology reports while tracking patients as they're treated throughout the UNC hospital system and outlying clinics. Plus, doctors can keep track of patients' medication, exams and test result histories.

"Our vision is an integrated health care system that allows medical information to follow patients," J.P. Kichak, chief information officer for UNC Health Care, said in a statement. "More importantly, we're building a health information exchange based on a national standard to help ensure when one of our patients goes outside of our system for any reason, their records can be accessed by other hospitals in keeping with the hope of one day contributing to a nationwide system of connected care."

With IBM's large presence in North Carolina, the company has a long-standing partnership with UNC Health Care, Cassidy wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "UNC Health Care has also deployed a number of other IBM technologies, such as analytics and data warehousing software and IBM hardware systems," he said. "When UNC Health Care began to think about their HIE strategy, IBM was a logical partner for them to engage."

Unlike HIEs in other areas of the United States, the project with UNC Health Care will not be statewide, Cassidy noted. (Hewlett-Packard recently announced a statewide HIE in Texas, and government IT intelligence provider Harris is building a similar statewide exchange in Florida.)

UNC's information exchange will reach seven hospitals as well as dozens of clinics and doctor's offices throughout North Carolina, IBM reports.

The IBM Health Integration Framework, comprising Initiate Exchange, Initiate Patient and Initiate Provider, will power UNC's HIE.

With the Initiate Exchange software, users at UNC can exchange clinical transactions such as referrals, orders and results, Cassidy said. Initiate Patient MPI (master person index) will allow physicians to track patients' identities on multiple EHR platforms, and Initiate Provider offers identity and management services.

The Initiate platform also includes an XDS (Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing) registry and XDS repositories for UNC HIE users to store, request and retrieve clinical documents, Cassidy added.

In another announcement at HIMSS11, Big Blue entered into a five-year software licensing deal with revenue and payment management software vendor Emdeon, which will use Initiate to retrieve patient records in its information exchange network. Emdeon is one of the largest health information networks in the country, the company reports.

With the Initiate software built in, Emdeon will allow users to call up patients' medical history in a single view.

"This data can give health care providers important information about their patients at the point of care," George Lazenby, Emdeon's CEO, said in a statement. "IBM Initiate Patient gives us the ability to produce a portable, powerful and accurate health care record within our existing nationwide network to enable the health care industry to leap forward in its pursuit of patient-centric health care."

Emdeon will use Initiate in a multiphased process. In the first phase, the two companies will allow doctors to reconcile medication records, view medical histories and access data for e-prescribing.