Blue KC goes for new master patient index

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) will roll out a new enterprise master patient index (MPI) that to enable the insurer to meet new demands for comprehensive, aggregated patient data in the health information exchange (HIE) environment.

[See also: CSC completes Master Patient Index for Austria]

Blue KC tapped ICW to provide the technology and oversee the implementation.

"Healthcare reform is driving significant changes in healthcare, which call for changes in the way we manage member identification," said Jane Hamerle, CIO of Blue KC. "For health plans, the need for an accurate, longitudinal understanding of members and their data over a lifetime is more important than ever, and ICW's solution will enable us to achieve this."

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Hamerle added that as Blue KC has continued to grow, it has added more than 100,000 new records in 2010. This growth made the need more apparent for an MPI capable of supporting the health plan’s goal of maintaining high quality member information with the utmost confidentiality and care.

"As the largest insurer in the area, Blue KC is leading the way in technologies that protect and benefit the individuals it serves," said Jeremy Coote, CEO of ICW.

Coote said the new technology would make it possible for Blue KC to aggregate a patient's health information into one uniform view.

That this type of data aggregation can be quite challenging, Coote said. But CW's MPI solution offers strict standards-compliance and is built on technology that automates mapping of datasets to a single patient identity based on a probability-based mathematical procedure, allowing for complex matching challenges to be rapidly resolved.


"MPIs ensure that all connected systems always have access to current, complete and reliable master data," said Coote. "Additionally, MPIs lay the groundwork for patient-centered medical care and care coordination across the healthcare market."

GE Healthcare initiates eHealth business unit

GE Healthcare recently launched a new global business unit that provides eHealth solutions and services to healthcare providers, health insurances and governmental agencies. Intended to streamline the collection and exchange of patient data among a wide range of clinical systems, the eHealth initiatives aim to facilitate evidence-based medicine and improve quality of care.

"With eHealth, we are working to develop standards-based infrastructure, a ground-breaking suite of collaborative services and clinical decision support tools that will empower providers and patients as never before," said Bernard Algayres, general manager eHealth at GE Healthcare IT for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Working with Germany-based ICW, GE Healthcare expanded its eHealth portfolio beyond imaging solutions. ICW's telemedicine and network solutions, patient identification and record management have added to GE Healthcare's eHealth systems. Clinical data is collected and consolidated in a global repository by GE Healthcare, and made available over the web to doctors and patients with enhanced security. Further technology includes care and disease management products that allow doctors to determine efficiency of care and remotely monitor patient health.

GE Healthcare's partnership with ICW has been a step toward greater connectivity within the healthcare industry, officials said, providing centralized management of medical data. "This application enables doctors from different institutions to access data centrally that pertains to patients in whose joint treatment they are involved," explained Peter Kirschbauer, chief executive officer of ICW.

ICW, Surescripts develop eRx for New York

New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) has partnered with German eHealth specialist InterComponentWare (ICW) and Surescripts for an eHealth prototype project to facilitate prescription routing and deliver prescription history for NY residents through the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY).

New York's statewide health information technology strategy envisions widespread use of health IT tools by clinicians and consumers.

This prototype will demonstrate secure and accurate transmission of prescription benefit and prescription history information, and prescription routing between electronic medical records, the Surescripts network, and pharmacies and payers, utilizing technical services and standards for health information exchange included in the ICW HealthCare Connector installed in each provider's practice location.

Surescripts (formed by the merger of Surescripts and RxHub in 2008) connects the nation's payers, prescribers and pharmacies for the safe and secure electronic exchange of prescriptions and prescription information.

"SHIN-NY's vision for New Yorkers aligns with Surescripts' vision for all healthcare providers - secure, electronic access to prescription information that can save patients' lives, improve efficiency and reduce the cost of healthcare," said Rick Ratliff, president, Surescripts Virginia division. "The Surescripts network, coupled with ICW's technology, will be a significant first step towards statewide access to prescription history data across NYS."

Rachel Block, executive director of NYeC, said: "SHIN-NY was formed based on a statewide goal to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare for all New Yorkers. Information technology is a key ingredient in achieving our goals.

"By partnering with ICW, a proven technology provider, and Surescripts, the nation's largest e-prescribing network, we will benefit from experience and will receive the guidance necessary for creating a fully interoperable, statewide health information network. And from here, we can address issues relative to population health management, drug efficacy, and statewide resource planning."

Jeremy Coote, CEO of ICW said: "New York's technical policies and standards can be leveraged by ICW to enable physicians' access to the Surescripts Network.

"The key to the success of this initiative lies in the governance and trust established by NYeC, combined with ICW's and Surescripts' ability to provide consistent and secure access in the providers' office."

The prototype project is in its initial phases and is on track for general implementation in late 2009.

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E-health anchors R.I. hospital project

Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island has completed the first phase of Project Anchor, an initiative that tests an e-health enabled patient-centered medical home model of providing patient care.

Charles Eaton, MD, director of the Center for Primary Care and Prevention, heads the project.

Phase I of the multi-year effort involved 200 diabetes patients from Memorial's Family Care Center and the transfer of key patient data using technology developed by Malvern, Pa.-based InterComponentWare, Inc. Patient data from Memorial's GE Centricity electronic medical record moves through the ICW Professional Exchange Server (PXS) to the Web-based ICW LifeSensor patient health record.  

The exchange server is the vehicle by which data from any provider system can be securely communicated to the PHR. It is this element that makes Project Anchor substantially more robust than other PHR implementations, according to Eaton.

With the information available in LifeSensor, patients can review their health data and begin tracking key measurements, such as glucose, blood pressure and weight, on a routine basis.  

The purpose of the project is to help patients take charge of their health and communicate regularly with their primary care physician, who serves as team leader in managing the patient's comprehensive care, using data from all care providers interacting with the patient.

"Establishing the secure communication of historical data from an existing EMR and from other provider systems to a Web-based tool for patient review is a critical first step in providing a conduit for patients and their care givers to achieve better medical outcomes and be actively engaged in their care delivery," said Jeremy P. Coote, CEO of ICW. He said ICW has implemented the secure transfer of patient and provider data via the server to the LifeSensor PHR in Europe.


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InterComponentWare gets major boost from "rock star" investors

InterComponentWare AG got a massive shot in the arm earlier this week when Santo Holding (Germany) GmbH - run by Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, the twin brothers who founded generic drug manufacturer Hexal - acquired a 25 percent stake in the company for a €100 million investment.

"We opted for an investment in ICW, because it is in a perfect position to assert itself in the high-growth global eHealth market with its open platform approach and mature solutions," the brothers explained in a prepared statement. "With its networking solutions, ICW has the potential to make the national and global healthcare market more efficient. We want to support and accompany this process."

An ICW spokesman said the new capital would fund continued international expansion and did not represent a sale of shares by any of the company's current ownership, including SAP AG co-founder Dietmar Hopp.

"This is the largest single investment in an eHealth company this year," said ICW's Dirk Schuhmann.

"The trust of our new investors in ICW shows that we are pursuing the right strategy and that our solutions have a large national and international market potential," said ICW's CEO, Peter Reuschel.

The company has a substantial footprint in both Europe and North America. In Europe, the company has been field testing an electronic health card in Germany since 2005. Earlier this year, ICW won a contract to pilot the introduction of a national electronic health card in Bulgaria. It also is participating in efforts to deploy seven million personal health records in conjunction with Germany's largest health insurance company, and in several provider-based networking initiatives to improve patient data sharing among physicians, hospitals and other medical professionals.

"We've won some huge projects," Schuhmann noted. "That's one of the reasons they have invested in our company."

The Strüngmann brothers have achieved something like celebrity status in Germany, thanks to the success of Hexal. In 1986, the fledgling pharmaceutical company began with five drug preparations and 22 employees, but within two years reported sales of €28 million. In February of 2005, the brothers announced plans to sell the company to Novartis for an estimated €5.87 billion.

Hexal also earned the goodwill of the business community, having won awards in both Germany and Europe for its employment practices. In a 2005 BusinessWeek profile, pharmaceuticals analyst Dave Maris described the Strüngmann brothers thusly: "They are really nice people, the kind of people you like to do business with."

Schuhmann said the Strüngmann brothers had no desire to play a hands-on role in the day-to-day operations at ICW, but explained "they want to help from a distance."

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