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2/21/2012
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Highmark Will Use Verizon-Built HIE

Health information exchange will link healthcare organizations across western Pennsylvania, providing cloud access to patient data and cutting costs by reducing redundancy of lab and imaging tests.

Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Highmark Inc., one of the largest Blue health plans in the nation, announced Monday that it has signed an agreement that calls for Verizon Enterprise Solutions to deploy and manage the technology infrastructure for Highmark's health information exchange (HIE), which will soon link healthcare organizations across western Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company, which has approximately 4.7 million members, is the first health insurer to sign on to the Verizon Health Information Exchange, an interoperable cloud-based health IT platform that consolidates patient clinical data from disparate providers and translates the information into a standardized format for secure access over the Web.

The announcement coincided with the first day of the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and exhibition in Las Vegas, where the discussion surrounding the development of health information exchanges is at the top of the health IT industry's agenda.

[ For more background on recent HIE achievements, see Health Information Exchanges Cross Interoperability Milestone. ]

Officials say the Verizon platform will offer doctors, nurses, and other clinicians affiliated with Highmark a way to access patient data using identity-access-management controls to provide security for sensitive patient information. The Highmark HIE will give clinicians easy access to patient data at the point of care, and will reduce redundancy of lab and imaging tests which officials say will cut costs.

The news follows a recent announcement by the Indiana Health Information Exchange, Inc (IHIE) that it has turned to AT&T to help it build a statewide health information exchange. "Verizon is taking a more aggressive approach to the healthcare space and this announcement helps telecom companies cement themselves as companies that can provide networks and data security to the healthcare industry," Zachary Bujnoch, senior industry analyst covering telehealth at Frost & Sullivan, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "They are not feeling around as much anymore, they are committing themselves to the healthcare industry with real resources and real projects."

As the amount of patient data increases, and with cloud computing still seen by many in the healthcare industry as a data security concern, healthcare stakeholders must come together to solve the problems that are emerging, Gerard Grundler, managing principal, health care, Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions, said. Verizon will seek to work with healthcare organizations as they comb through patient data in an effort to decide what bits of information will be uploaded into the cloud, he said.

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