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Aug. 19, 2010
TOPEKA A months-long effort to draft a plan for a Kansas health information exchange is nearing completion and the finished document, which likely will number more than 300 pages, is scheduled for delivery to federal officials for review by the end of the month.
Members of the e-Health Advisory Council on Thursday heard what might be a final update on the plan, which essentially spells out the next steps to be taken for advancing a statewide health information exchange.
If the plan is approved, as expected, federal officials will begin turning loose more than $8 million in grant money the state is in line to receive to further advance the project.
Officials said the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, will probably issue formal response to the state plan by mid October with formal approval coming by mid November or December.
That would clear the way to create the exchange and begin providing core services by December 2011.
Final edits of the document are scheduled through next week, wrapping up in time to meet the Aug. 31 ONC deadline.
Council members on Thursday also heard an update on courses being developed at Johnson County Community College to train health information technology workers who are expected to be in high demand as medical providers move to meet the federal goal of every American having an electronic health record by 2014.
The federal economic stimulus law of 2009 provides incentive payments for doctors and hospitals who have certified electronic record systems in place.
In order for those records to be transferred from one provider to another there must be infrastructure and systems in place for their exchange, which is what the state plan is aimed at accomplishing.
Deb Elder, HIT grant project director for the community college, told council members that the school is scrambling to have a course available to start by Sept. 30.
She said the school is recruiting students and hopes to have 110 of them trained for workflow management and software support jobs by 2012.
She said Johnson County Community College was part of the Midwest Community College Health Information Technology Consortium, which is led by Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.
The consortium will train students in 10 midwestern states, including Kansas and Missouri.
"There is the expectation that there will be an HIE workforce shortage," said Michael Aldridge, a member of the advisory board assisting JCCC on the project.
Council members also were updated on an ongoing survey by the Kansas Health Policy Authority attempting to gauge how widespread is the use of electronic health records among Kansas doctors and other medical providers.
Diane Davidson, the agency's director of special projects, said the survey had been going for about 3.5 weeks but response "was pretty skimpy," until Monday when about 500 responses a day began coming in.
She said the agency intended to continue the survey at least through next week now that people seem to be paying attention to it.
So far, she said, about 23 percent of respondents indicated they would be interested in applying for the incentive payments made available by the stimulus law.
She said the agency had hoped to hear back from about 70 percent of those sent surveys but so far had only heard back from about 40 percent.
She also said the health policy authority was issuing a request for proposal seeking a vendor to help the agency develop a health information technology plan for the state Medicaid program, which the agency oversees.
Larry Pitman of the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care, which is operating the federally approved regional extension service intended to help doctors and other providers adopt health information technology, said his organization expected to award a contract next week to a consultant that will narrow a list of eight potential preferred software vendors for the product or products sold with the endorsement of the extension service.
The preferred vendor or vendors would be obliged to offer their products at a discount to doctors or other providers who purchase them.
Pitman said about 100 providers have signed up so far to work with the extension center. The goal is to sign up about 1,200.