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The Expanding Data Bridge

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders Magazine, March 13, 2008
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A dispute among key members will not derail the Cincinnati-based HealthBridge data exchange, says CEO Bob Steffel.

The July 2005 cover story of HealthLeaders analyzed the success of HealthBridge, a data-sharing collaborative based in Cincinnati. At that time, HealthBridge's membership comprised four delivery systems that encompassed 17 hospitals. The collaborative served as the hub of delivering lab results and other clinical reports to area physicians. Since then, HealthBridge has added new members and services, continuing to deliver on what much of the industry continues to debate. Technology Editor Gary Baldwin recently caught up with HealthBridge Chief Executive Officer Robert Steffel to discuss how the collaborative has grown--and how it reacted to an internal dispute involving a key health system member.

HealthLeaders: How big is HealthBridge these days?

Robert Steffel: We now have 27 hospitals. In October 2007, we sent 2.31 million clinical results to 4,431 physicians. We maintain the same business model, with member hospitals paying dues. We now have more interaction with health plans, and one plan is on our board. We have added ambulatory lab ordering through the messaging system, and we have seen substantial growth in electronic medical record adoption among physicians to whom we are feeding data directly. Of the 2.31 million results, 95 percent were delivered electronically either through our clinical messaging system or directly to an EMR. The rest we print, mail or fax. We have 1.8 million people in our unique master patient index. When we talk about the notion of the medical home and the continuity of care record, the MPI is going to be pivotal to making it happen.

HL: Have you had to upgrade your infrastructure to accommodate the increased traffic?

Steffel: About two years ago, we upgraded to a SAN [storage area network]. We've made major changes to our technical infrastructure. We are moving to blade servers and making use of virtual servers. It is a technology refresh along with another round of standardization. We used to have edge servers at each customer site, but version control was an issue. That arrangement gave us minor issues with standardizing the data and major issues with maintaining the network. Different organizations had different access policies, so we are pulling all servers into our data center. We should finish by March 2008.

HL: I see you have added additional business partners other than hospitals.

Steffel: Since we talked in 2005, we brought up two major labs, Quest and LabCorp, in 2006. We've also added four radiology companies that use us to send their data. The labs use us to deliver results to physicians.

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