Houston HIE to connect 130 hospitals via 'network of networks'

First phase to focus on emergency medical services
By Mike Miliard
04:22 PM

Greater Houston Healthconnect announced Thursday that it will partner with Medicity to establish a community-wide health information exchange, connecting more than 130 hospitals and some 14,000 physicians in a 20-county region of Southeast Texas.

Officicials say Healthconnect will bridge existing networks of major health systems, together with independent hospitals and providers to improve care quality and lower costs for 7 million area residents.

[See also: Houston healthcare system's HIE central to new PCMH program.]

Healthconnect has received signed letters of interest in support of the HIE from the major providers in the Texas Medical Center, officials say. With every major health system in Houston having or planning to implement an HIE for their organization, Healthconnect will work with them to link their HIEs to each other, creating an interoperable, standards-based network of networks that adds value to the IT investments these health systems have already made.

"We're excited to begin working with Medicity to establish a safe, efficient, low-cost way to share medical information among providers," said Lamar Pritchard, Healthconnect board member and dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Houston. "We selected Medicity's technology due to their experience and track record of interfacing with all major EHR systems currently in use by area hospitals. Medicity has helped more than 800 hospitals achieve connectivity without disrupting existing systems. One of the biggest benefits of the technology is its ability to easily integrate with any major EHR system, which will facilitate rapid implementation in Houston and allow for sustainable growth in the future."

[See also: Aetna acquires Medicity for $500M.]

While a fully-implemented HIE in the Houston region will benefit the entire community, officials note that the first phase of Healthconnect's initiative will involve connecting emergency medical services systems and participating hospital emergency departments so patient information can be readily accessible in an emergency. This initial phase is designed to address one of Houston's long-standing concerns: overcrowding and over-utilization of emergency department services.

"Emergency care is a priority for Healthconnect because of the large population of uninsured people in our area," said Jim Langabeer, Healthconnect's CEO. "By seamlessly connecting to each other, facilities will be able to quickly learn if patients − both uninsured and insured − have been previously seen in another emergency department and can then provide the most appropriate care. This is an important first step toward achieving our goal of complete connectivity in our world-class healthcare community."

"As the industry moves toward greater provider accountability and outcomes-based reimbursement models, collaboration among providers is essential," added Brent Dover, Medicity president. "We are excited to work with Healthconnect in its effort to enhance quality of care and lower costs."