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2/9/2012
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Partnership Helps Rural Hospitals Move Fast On EHRs

Anthelio lends project management expertise to help Healthland EHR customers quickly gear up for federal Meaningful Use incentives.

Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
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Rural hospitals are as interested as other hospitals in netting Meaningful Use payments. Anthelio, a health IT support and business process outsourcing company, recently partnered with Healthland, a vendor of hospital information systems specializing in rural and critical access hospitals, to help these facilities accelerate their implementation of electronic health records to capture the federal incentives.

With nearly 500 hospital customers, Minneapolis-based Healthland has the largest installed base of information systems--including both financial and clinical systems--in the critical access hospital (CAH) market, according to the company.

The majority of the vendor's CAH and other rural hospital clients have already started down the EHR path, Healthland President and CEO Angela Franks told InformationWeek Healthcare. Some have already attested to Meaningful Use on the company's older client-server EHR, she said. But Healthland is now trying to migrate its customers to a more sophisticated, cloud-based EHR called Centriq. The purpose of the Anthelio deal is to help customers move to this integrated system--which is also certified for Meaningful Use--as quickly as possible.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your Clinical Decision Support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Anthelio will provide project management and "migration services," including training and testing to make sure that Healthland's hosted application works properly, said Rick Kneipper, chief strategy and innovation officer of Anthelio. In addition, he noted, it will supplement the rural facilities' sparse IT resources.

"Unlike larger hospitals, most of these facilities don't have enough IT people to work on a major project like an EHR migration," he pointed out. "It's hard for them to get the project management or technical expertise they need. And they don't have much room in their budget [for such an initiative]."

Kneipper said he expects Anthelio to bring up Centriq EHRs in as many as 500 hospitals in the next two years. But Franks said that that's an ambitious goal. Although Healthland would like to get all of its customers onboard, she noted, "We're not going to force our clients to migrate. We're showing them the capabilities and the direction and the possibilities, and it's up to their choice and timing."

While Quality Systems Inc., owner of the NextGen ambulatory EHR, has acquired a company that targets the same small hospitals that Healthland does, Franks said she doesn't regard Quality as a real competitor. Healthland's main competition, she stated, comes from hospital information system (HIS) vendors like CPSI, HMS, Meditech, and McKesson. But none of these companies focuses on the rural market exclusively as Healthland does, she noted.

Healthland also distinguishes itself from competitors, she said, by providing a system that reflects how rural healthcare is organized. Many rural hospitals operate integrated delivery networks that include inpatient and outpatient hospital care, ambulatory care, home care, and long-term care. "We deliver the software, service, maintenance and support for all their care delivery settings," she noted.

Healthland's product runs on a single database that includes financial and clinical data across all of these care settings. While it has a separate EHR for physician offices, she noted, the ambulatory care data resides in the same database that houses the hospital data. In this sense, it provides the kind of interoperability offered by systems like Epic, which is designed for much larger organizations. "Having everything stored in one database across the continuum of care will be critical for delivering the best patient care," Franks said.

"Rural America has been largely ignored in terms of what they've done in these small hospitals," she added. "These hospitals go from paper to paperless in 12 months, and they truly are the embodiment of what the country is trying to get to with the EHR."

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

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