"There's no way to prevent patients from going outside a network, but you can't manage a population without having all the information. HIEs give providers a tool to get all the information," says Gravell.
The Indiana Health Information Exchange, a nonprofit organization formed by the Regenstrief Institute, private hospitals, local and state health departments, BioCrossroads, and other healthcare and community organizations in that state, is making some progress with population health. IHIE links more than 93 hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, community health clinics, and other healthcare providers and affects in excess of 10 million patients.
In June the Central Beacon Community Program, the IHIE, and the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT released the first-year results of a three-year study looking at the use of HIE in Central Indiana. In just one targeted area—to increase the number of colorectal cancer screenings—participants increased screenings by nearly 15%. In March 2010 (prior to the Beacon program), 57.54% of the measured population received the necessary colorectal cancer screening, but as of December 2011, more than 66% of patients were screened.
The program's goal was to drive improvements for patients and the community by "supporting better chronic disease management, better utilization of healthcare services, timely preventive care services, and to give a real-world national health IT model that achieves measurable and sustainable improvements," according to a St. Vincent Health statement. St. Vincent was among the participants in the study.
"By pooling of the clinical and financial data, and then the blinding of proprietary information allows all providers to get a truer picture of what's happening with the patients, and that's what's needed to manage a population," says Alan D. Snell, MD, chief medical informatics officer at the 22-hospital system St. Vincent Health (a member of Ascension Health) in Indiana. In June, Snell was among 82 healthcare providers in the United States to be recognized by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services for their work with health IT.
The need for more useful population health data has the IHIE compiling health data that allows providers to track improved health outcomes for patients and is specifically focusing on areas such as cancer screenings, diabetes care, heart health, asthma care, well-child visits, and other care interventions. As the study will take three years to complete, no additional outcomes data could be released.