$1M grant bringing HIE to rural CA providers

By Anthony Brino
03:01 PM

The California Health eQuality program program is offering $1 million in grants for physicians, clinics and hospitals in rural California to add health information exchange technologies and meet federal meaningful use standards.

Managed by the University of California-Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement, the Health eQuality program’s grants are aimed at fixing a problem that’s somewhat common in much of the country, especially in rural areas: duplicative testing for lack of information.

In California’s agricultural belt, the Central Valley, and rural eastern and northern regions of the state, there’s a scarcity of providers and especially specialists, so patients often end up travelling to urban centers for specialized care, said Kenneth Kizer, MD, a UC-Davis medical professor and director of the eHealth Quality program and the Institute for Population Health Improvement.

That travel increases the likelihood that treating providers don’t have access to patient medical histories, and the chance that patients may undergo duplicative lab tests or imaging studies, receive prescriptions for incompatible medications or generally experience a fragmented system.

"The Rural HIE Incentive Program leverages a new, more cost-effective model for enabling exchange in rural communities," said Kizer, who also worked as the CEO of the open source health IT company Medsphere Systems Corporation and as the founding CEO of the National Quality Forum.

California’s statewide HIE strategy has been to connect regional HIEs and health information organizations through a network, and the state’s HIEs recently started to move beyond point-to-point user agreements.

Rural providers applying for grant funding will have a choice of five HIE service organizations, which will offer several options, including Direct secure messaging and query-based exchange.

The funding, Kizer said in a media release, is slated to be disbursed through the rest of the year, with the possibility to extending the program if continued funding sources are found.

The California Health eQuality program has been trying to expand digital services to providers in underserved parts of the state, far from the tech hub of the Bay Area and metropolitan Los Angeles.

"While a number of rural communities have begun to unite around the need for health information exchange and have established local HIE initiatives, many others are in need, and few have means to implement it," Rayna Caplan, manager of Health eQuality funding programs, said in a media release. "Partnering with an HIE service provider also allows rural communities to manage their local governance while outsourcing implementation."

See also:

Perspective: California's statewide HIE on right track

Why HIE hinges on terminology standards