Colorado to expand health data network

By Patty Enrado
12:04 PM

Over the past month, Colorado has successfully demonstrated its ability to share patient data securely among four health and hospital systems across the state.

Within two years, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, or CORHIO, plans to connect additional regional and enterprise systems by expanding its clinical messaging capability to those systems, said executive director Phyllis Albritton.

The goal of the December "go-live" was to establish a point-of-care inquiry system, but having clinical messaging, which includes e-prescribing and access to lab data, will provide a complete health information exchange environment, she said.

Established in 2007 and with a 20-person board comprising multi-stakeholders, the nonprofit organization resulted from the convergence of two projects. A grant by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality enabled the University of Colorado to develop a regional demonstration project, which culminated in the December 1st health information exchange launch. Another grant enabled community outreach and understanding of the benefits of health information exchange.

"It was useful to have everyone at the table from the beginning," Albritton said. Gov. Bill Ritter has been "very supportive" of CORHIO, she said. Much of the funding and investments thus far have come from federal and state grants, foundations, including $2 million from the Colorado Health Foundation, and other stakeholders, including the regional and national payers in the state.

Colorado is unique in that its population is relatively healthy and young, but it has pockets of healthcare issues such as diabetes and infant mortality, Albritton said. On top of that, the state's many rural and frontier regions suffer from a shortage of healthcare providers, with its 10,000 physicians practicing in small groups versus large, multi-specialty groups.

Health information exchange can allow people to stay in their communities, she said. "It also becomes valuable to everyone," she said, because of its ability to enable specialists outside of the system to provide support.