Considering that the federal government is pouring $563 million into the states to build health information exchanges, it's not surprising that some of the largest technology and telecommunications companies are moving into the business of electronic connectivity.
Hewlett Packard's just-announced foray into information exchange with the Texas Medicaid program is the latest in a barrage of announcements from tech giants within the past nine months.
Covisint, which provides the platform for the American Medical Association's physician portal, recently said that it's expanding its relationship with the Northeast Pennsylvania HIE. Covisint currently provides the exchange with secure clinical messaging. It now will deliver clinical and administrative data to providers at the point of care, as well.
And there are bigger fish to fry. Last week, as reported here, IBM struck a deal with the Premier Healthcare Alliance to supply a platform for data exchange among participants in Premier's accountable care organization collaboratives. Twenty-five health systems encompassing 90 hospitals will initially use this exchange.
AT&T, which in 2008 announced an HIE solution in partnership with Covisint and Microsoft, has not made much headway on that front. But recently, the American Hospital Association endorsed the AT&T Healthcare Community Online to its members, having previously recommended AT&T's voice, data networking and wireless services. In addition, AT&T last spring struck an agreement with the University of California to support its rural telehealth network.
Not to be outdone, Verizon last summer announced the availability of its "cloud-based" HIE platform for data exchange across communities, regions and states. It also revealed its business model: providers will pay subscription fees based on the amount of data they use. The MedVirginia exchange is Verizon's first customer.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's Amalga networking solution continues to gather momentum. The company has signed up a dozen large healthcare systems, as well as the Wisconsin HIE. But so far Amalga is being used more to connect enterprises than to link together communities.
Mickey Tripathi, CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, believes that providers that aren't yet connected will use a variety of "on-ramps" to the state HIEs that are now beginning to receive federal funds. Among them, he said, could be the platforms of AT&T, Verizon and Covisint. The state HIEs, he suggests, could use their scale to get lower prices for connectivity.
This is an eminently sensible idea. Many providers, especially in rural areas, are unable to connect to the HIEs of large healthcare organizations, and have no community exchange in their area. If a big company like AT&T or Verizon can provide interoperability at a local level, helping these providers to trade information with other providers caring for the same patient, it will accelerate the process of connectivity. And, if the tech giants can furnish their services at a reasonable price, they can also help physicians show meaningful use when interoperability becomes a government requirement. - Ken