Microsoft, CSC Create Largest U.S. Metro Health Information Exchange in Chicago

Microsoft Amalga data-aggregation software and CSC's practice management will allow 9.4 million people to access Chicago's health-information network.

Microsoft, IT integrator and cloud-service provider CSC, and health-data-exchange software developer HealthUnity have announced they will contribute the technology and practice management for the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council's MetroChicago Health Information Network.

Founded in 1935, MCHC is a membership and service association of more than 150 hospitals and health care organizations in the greater metropolitan Chicago area.

Serving 9.4 million people, 66 hospitals and major outpatient care organizations, the HIE (health-information exchange) is expected to be the largest metropolitan health-data exchange in the United States. HIEs enable physicians to view and share EHRs (electronic health records) from various databases.

"The HIE will be one of the largest in the country and will allow our region's health care market to improve efficiency by creating a network where health information flows with the patient, no matter where care is received," Mary Anne Kelly, vice president of MCHC, said in a statement.

Local Chicago hospitals have been enthusiastic about the project, according to Kelly.

"Seventy percent of hospitals in the Chicago metro area have already become founding members of the HIE, which is a testament to area health care organizations' stalwart commitment to improving quality and patient safety," Kelly said.

Like the physician data network Microsoft recently announced for Hawaii, the Chicago HIE, announced April 25, will have the Microsoft Amalga data-aggregation platform at its core.

Amalga allows doctors to see a unified view of a patient's medical history from various providers' databases at the time of care. The software is used to create HIEs to share EHRs.

"As the industry continues to focus on delivering value-better care at the same, or lower, costs-the flow of data across organizational boundaries and the ability to analyze and report on data across patient populations are increasingly important," Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the health-solutions group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "MCHC is leading its health care provider members to adopt technologies that can help drive value throughout the care-delivery process, enabling a healthier population."

The data-analysis capabilities of Amalga will be key to providing the information needed to improving continuity of patient care, Robert Reese, CSC's North America partner and managing director for health care delivery, told eWEEK.

CSC will manage the day-to-day operations of the HIE, including hosting, tech support, patient privacy and proprietary security capabilities. In addition, CSC will build on its experience with the New England Health Exchange network.

Meanwhile, with its document exchange software, HIE software provider HealthUnity will be the "traffic controller" for the data, Reese said.

The goal of the project is to allow doctors to better coordinate care by sharing test results and information on condition, medication and allergies from other providers within the region. Having this information could save lives in a medical emergency when patients may not be able to share this information themselves.

With the Chicago HIE, providers will also be able to monitor emerging outbreaks of influenza or other diseases.

Participating organizations rather than the government will fund the HIE, according to Microsoft.

Other HIEs have been set up recently by GE Healthcare in Pennsylvania, Harris in Florida and Hewlett-Packard in Texas.