As hospitals and providers move through the EHR Incentive, Meaningful Use (MU) program to Stage 2, they are presented with an increased emphasis on the exchange of health information to support patient transitions of care (ToC). MU2 includes several ToC requirements, the most significant of which is this: Providers and hospitals that transition a patient to another provider or care setting must provide an electronic summary-of-care document for more than 10 percent of these transitions.
Meeting the ToC measure has provided a unique catalyst to explore solutions enabled by health IT to support healthcare transformation in medical communities across western Colorado. Throughout the area, we continue to see examples of hospitals, providers and other healthcare services coming together as a community to improve patient outcomes.
One such area is Montrose, Colorado, where Montrose Memorial Hospital (MMH) is working together with their medical staff and referral community to meet MU2 and improve care for their entire medical neighborhood. MU2 presents some technology challenges, however how it is deployed to make the data valuable to both senders and receivers is an even bigger challenge.
"We have a good working relationship with our medical staff here in the Montrose area and we all support one another in our efforts to improve patient care," says Mary Snyder, COO at MMH. "We selected to work through QHN, a company we are all familiar with, to be able to provide the services we need. The transition of care document will be very helpful to all entities that we work with as far as transitioning care from our facility to another care setting and to make it as simple and useful as possible."
Frequently the conversation around MU2 focuses too much on technology and not enough on people and process, realistic workflow and the greater value of understanding how to best 'close the loop' on the transition. For providers to use technology, it has to be valuable and integrated into their current clinical practice. Most providers in the western Colorado medical trade area already have a relationship with QHN's network and have established QHN functionality into their workflow.
QHN has established relationships and agreements with providers and hospitals in the region and building on that common framework to support the ToC work is a natural progression. The value that comes from this network, where everyone plays by the same rules, under existing agreements, cannot be underestimated in the quest to derive the real value of health information exchange.
"We wanted to partner with someone who had an established network of users, addresses, etc. so that we could reach out to and meet the MU requirements," said Al White, MMH, CFO. "In addition, being able to access information across a network is invaluable and so what we looked for was an organization that had an established network in our area and that would definitely be QHN."
"Seeing that the physicians are already members of QHN, bringing in QHN for our HISP just makes it easier," says Carlos Lovera, MMH Director of IT. "Starting with an unknown company we would have to re-educate the physicians, they are already familiar with QHN, they already have a trust relationship with QHN, making it an easier transition into what we need to do."
Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado is also looking to QHN to provide their MU2 ToC solution. "Back when we did our first reading of the Stage 2 requirements, the initial thoughts were "we have QHN", this should be easy. As we studied the complexities of secure transmission, we realized that it was not going to be "easy" however; we still considered that QHN would be there to help us," said Randy Ferguson, Director of Information Technology and the MU team at Community. "We did explore a couple of other options, but then came to the conclusion that QHN was the best value to meet our needs."