The five-year contract calls for ACS to develop the exchange using the software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing model in which the hardware, software, and data center operations will be managed by ACS. The company also will deploy advanced analytics and software platforms that present a comprehensive view of a patient's health history, medication lists, lab results, and family and social history.
The exchange is being developed for members of Iowa e-Health, a consortium created by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) that is comprised of Iowa hospitals, consumers, healthcare providers, payers, and others. Iowa e-Health will govern the exchange, known as the Iowa Health Information Network (IHIN), and the consortium plans to begin piloting the network in July, with full implementation planned by December.
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"ACS will provide the advisory, design, implementation, training, and operations services necessary to create and roll out the IHIN statewide," Jack Buxbaum, vice president, HIE Services at ACS, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The project team is a partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), ACS, and our technology partners: Informatics Corporation of America (ICA) of Nashville, Tenn., Genova Technologies of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and LightEdge Solutions of Des Moines, Iowa."
Explaining that the exchange will be accessed by providers operating across the state in rural and urban areas, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, told InformationWeek Healthcare that the Iowa Health Information Network will connect the state's four major hospital systems and their affiliated clinics and physician practices.
These providers include the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Medical Center, the Iowa Health System, and the Genesis Health System. The four hospitals alone comprise about 85% of the hospital beds in the state, Miller-Meeks said. In addition, two payers--the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, and Iowa Medicaid--also will link their systems to the exchange.
The HIE hopes to reduce duplication of tests and test procedures, enhance prescribing capabilities, and facilitate communication with groups that might not have the financial ability to have a complete electronic health record at their facility but could transmit through a continuity of care document.
According to Buxbaum, ACS will streamline the integration of acute and ambulatory Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems by conducting interoperability testing similar to Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Connectathons, which are professionally managed and independently monitored testing events. The IHE Connectathon is the healthcare IT industry's only large-scale interoperability testing event and is held annually in Asia, Europe, and North America.
"First, we will undertake an event similar to an IHE Connectathon, which will allow us to test IHIN interoperability with EHR vendors who are prominent across the state of Iowa," Buxbaum said. "Second, the HIE solution powered by our primary partner, ICA, will provide a utility that EHR vendors may access in order to test their interoperability with the IHIN."
Buxbaum also commended the work of the IDPH, in collaboration with the Iowa e-Health consortium, to develop foundational policies, enact relevant legislation, obtain stakeholder buy-in and support, recruit early adopters, and establish and begin to execute an economic sustainability model.
"We have found that these non-technical aspects of an HIE are in many ways the most compelling and challenging to states undertaking initiatives such as this," Buxbaum said.
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