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HIEs Deliver Savings to Rural Hospitals

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, August 10, 2011

She pointed to the Spokane, Washington-based HIE Inland Northwest Health Services, which has an HIT network that connects 38 hospitals and 450 ambulatory organizations. It also provides 47,000 end users with secure access to a community-wide EHR system that contains records for 3.5 million patients. Berry said Inland Northwest hosts the technology for many rural hospitals and physician practices through a shared services model.

"They're saving lots of money for the hospitals because they've consolidated the data centers," Berry said. "Essentially all the connected providers pay subscription fees, but they're saving so much money by not having to develop the infrastructure themselves, that they're really much, much better off."

In fact, according to the report, hospitals that participate in this particular HIE spend approximately 2% of their budget on health IT infrastructure compared to the national average of 3% or more. The Inland Northwest infrastructure also includes "advanced applications not always factored into the national average spend, including computerized physician order entry, clinical documentation, bedside charting, bar-coded medication verification, and medication reconciliation," the report said.

Another example that Berry highlighted is SMRTNET, which she calls "a network of networks" that connects Indian tribes and other providers. After first operating with grant funding and in-kind resources from partner organizations, the SMRTNET HIE framework has been replicated in additional counties in Oklahoma and now consists of "seven self-governed networks that exchange data statewide" on more than 80% of the population of Oklahoma across 115 sites from 64 towns and cities.

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