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ACO Data Sharing Will Depend on Technology, a Little Faith

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, April 5, 2011

Since the Department of Health and Human Services released its proposed accountable care organization regulations last week, technology that enables data-sharing has suddenly become even more important than it has been since the first-stage meaningful use regulations were announced. And Health information exchanges are poised to play a key role—from aiding physician-hospital alignment to supporting medical home efforts to coordinating care among multiple healthcare providers to improving quality of care.

Doug Dietzman, executive director of the health information exchange Michigan health Connect, says his organization is ready to support its members, regardless of how the final rules turn out.

Although the organization currently only serves hospitals and health systems in Michigan, it plans to expand to other types of healthcare organizations and beyond the state border.

“We're … talking to the health plans, pharmacies, community health organizations, and others. We would expect that as we continue to grow that we'll have anybody and everybody who’s involved in the healthcare environment tied in,” he says.

And it’s not just about moving data—the organization will likely offer licensed software to its members. “The plan is to provide solutions,” he says. “[We’ll] provide the capabilities, either in moving the data or potentially even providing the solution components of an enabler or individual ACOs that spring up around hospitals [across state lines] or however they form. Michigan Health Connect itself won't be [an ACO] but it will have to be able to support and enable those members that need me to get the data where it needs to go or if they want to license software through [us].”

That model is an opportunity for HIEs to become self-sustaining when government funding inevitably dries up and should also make data-sharing easier for the ACOs of the future. The Michigan HIE is already there—it is 100% privately funded. 

“We’ve accepted no public funding at the state or federal level. So all the conversations in Congress about defunding this or that don't bother me at all,” Dietzman says. “If I can build that kind of sustainability model, then as we add the other pieces we're on a solid footing.”

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