IBM, UNC Launch Health Information Exchange

The system will facilitate the sharing of medical information among hospitals and healthcare practices across North Carolina.
Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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IBM announced Tuesday that it will provide the technology and services to support UNC Health Care's newly launched health information exchange (HIE). The HIE will improve the exchange of patient information among the health system's affiliated hospitals and physician practices throughout North Carolina.

Announced Monday at the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, Fla., the UNC Health Care HIE is built on the IBM Health Integration Framework including IBM Initiate Exchange, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) information sharing platform; IBM Initiate Patient, which matches and links patient identities; and IBM Initiate Provider, which contains a master index of healthcare providers.

IBM said its technology and services for HIE and patient identification already touch 80% of the population of North America and are relied on by more than 100 large healthcare systems, more than 40 HIEs, and the nation's largest retail pharmacies.

Ed Macko, CTO at IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, told InformationWeek that there is a growing trend to create private HIEs across the country.

"Many healthcare systems are creating HIEs and many more will need to because their business will demand it," Macko said. "Beyond allowing medical information to follow the patient -- which is significant in and of itself -- projects like this can help healthcare providers expand their analytics capabilities with better information to track patient information more efficiently across the continuum of care."

J.P. Kichak, CIO at UNC Health Care, said in a statement that the healthcare delivery organization's vision is an integrated healthcare system that allows medical information to follow patients.

"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," Kichak said.

The health information exchange will connect UNC Health Care's hospitals located in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Siler City, N.C. The HIE will enable healthcare providers to access electronic medical records, lab results, and radiology reports while medical information follows patients throughout the hospital system and outlying clinics.

While each hospital uses a different electronic medical record system, IBM HIE technology can interoperate with multiple systems. IBM also said its master person index (MPI) maintains patient information from multiple systems under one unique identifier. An MPI enables accurate patient identification, a pre-requisite for access to clinical information at all points of care.

The company also announced that it will create a new healthcare interoperability lab in Chicago at the IBM Innovation Center. The lab will allow IBM's business partners to design, develop, install, and test the latest healthcare technologies built on the IBM Health Integration Framework. The healthcare interoperability lab will also provide an environment for business partners to showcase their validated HIE solution built on the Framework.

IBM said its Global Business Services continues to offer targeted consulting services to support organizations with planning, sustainability, development, and operational management of HIEs. The company added that it is also providing services to support advanced care delivery models such as patient-centered medical home (PCMH) and accountable care organizations (ACOs). These services include:

-- Consulting services to help prospective HIEs develop a strategic blueprint that balances policy, governance, and technical components required to create a sustainable HIE business model.

-- HIE strategic planning to provide a sequenced implementation roadmap to help effectively use the exchange by adding advanced services such as clinical process design, advanced healthcare analytics, and population management analytics needed to create and operate PCMH and ACO care delivery models.

-- Support for health information organizations in their outreach, education, and physician adoption efforts.