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HIX Attracts Community Hospitals in Nebraska, Gradually

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 26, 2011

Over the past month or so, 14 critical access hospitals have joined the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII), the statewide health information exchange. But even with mega-incentives on the table, getting those CAHs to sign on to the exchange has taken lots of convincing.

"You're talking to the person that had to do all of that," Deb Bass, executive director of NeHII, tells HealthLeaders. She's spent the past several years working with the state's hospitals and health systems in an effort to get them onboard with the exchange. But if getting big health systems onboard is hard, getting CAHs to participate is even harder.

For most CAHs, Bass says, the average daily census is less than five, but they still have to offer a lot of services. Plus, some of them only have a half-time IT employee. So how do you communicate the value of getting connected in the face of their extreme money, time, and personnel constraints? Bass starts the conversation with CEOs, and says, "I know I'm getting success if they let me talk to their CIOs."

"You just have to help them understand why it makes sense," Bass says. "And then [you're] looking at putting together a deal that makes it so attractive they couldn't say no."

And the deal is a pretty attractive one. According to Bass, NeHII is charging no implementation fees. "We're absorbing all of those," she says, using ONC HIE Cooperative grant funding. In addition, by joining the HIX, hospitals also connect to Nebraska's state immunization records system to do their public health and disease reporting.

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