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Jan. 18, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. The University of Kansas Hospital is among several major Kansas City-area hospitals set to sign contracts with LACIE, the metro's largest developing health information exchange.
The signings — as well as LACIE's new board of directors — are scheduled to be formalized Tuesday at LACIE's new headquarters, which relocated this week from St. Joseph, Mo. to Kansas City, Mo. (map). The 3 p.m. event with Kansas City Mayor Sly James is open to the public.
LACIE — short for the Lewis and Clark Information Exchange — is one of the two networks approved to exchange electronic patient records in Kansas. The other is the Kansas Health Information Network; both networks went live this summer.
In addition to KU Hospital, other metro area hospitals set to formalize LACIE participation include:
• Children's Mercy,
• Olathe Medical Center,
• Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and
• Truman Medical Centers. (Full list of providers working to connect to LACIE.)
The value of any network increases with each additional connection and LACIE is reaching a critical mass of network participants, said Dr. Gregory Ator, KU Hospital's chief medical information officer. He said LACIE's growth will lead to a "sea change in patient care" in the KC area.
"With the unprecedented level of organizations that are already participating in this, it really benefits everybody in the community to be a part of it," Ator said. "We've never been able to access data like this. Patients would come in and say 'I take the pink pill and the little red pill.' There goes 30 minutes just trying to figure out what medications they're taking. Now we'll be able to access it quickly, including things that happened yesterday."
As it is more widely adopted, digital health information exchange is expected to take the place of paper records, which are typically transferred via fax, discs, mail or by patients themselves. The hope is quicker access to more complete patient information will improve patient care, help cut medical costs by avoiding redundant and ineffective treatments, as well as reduce errors.
"We tried this once before with eHealthAlign, and it kind of fell through," Ator said, referring to a previous attempt to connect KC area providers. "I think this is a different paradigm and I'm very hopeful that (we can) put aside some of our differences and have all of the health care organizations in the city come together around this incredible, powerful tool that we can develop for the benefit of our patients."
The growth of LACIE has been spurred in part by its recent change in operating control. Since it formed in 2008, most KC hospitals and doctors were reluctant to sign on with LACIE as long as its founder, Heartland Health, maintained control. Heartland is a competing St. Joseph-based health system that has been expanding into north KC.
In August, LACIE announced that Heartland would begin sharing control of the network with the formation of a new board.
"That's when it really became a viable opportunity," Ator said. "That very much increased the value of LACIE for us, because the metro is our medical trade area...it's where our patients get their care."
LACIE chief executive Mike Dittemore said the five executive positions on the 13-member board have been filled:
Board chair: Dr. Ator, KU Hospital.
Vice chair: Dr. Laura Fitzmaurice, chief medical information officer at Children's Mercy. Fitzmaurice was the former chair of eHealthAlign.
Treasurer: Jack Wagner, chief financial officer at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
Secretary: Dr. Joe Boyce, chief medical information officer at Heartland. Boyce was the chair of Heartland-owned LACIE.
Executive committee member at large: Mitzi Cardenas, chief information officer at Truman Medical Centers.
Still to be named are eight at-large board members representing large providers, academic medical centers, community hospitals, critical access hospitals, safety net clinics, employers, and patients.
Dittemore said the full board would have roughly equal representation from Kansas and Missouri.
"We're trying to keep it pretty much 50/50, but several of our folks have organizations on both sides of the state line. We're trying to make sure we have a very diverse board so that it is not only representing both sides of the state line, but also the different types of providers and different sizes of hospitals that would be participants in LACIE."
KU Hospital is also a participant in the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN). Although KHIN and LACIE are required by their Kansas operating licenses to be connected by June 30, Ator said there was benefit to KU in joining both.
"The strengths of each system varies and the connection varies. We really feel that there's value in both networks," Ator said.
The cost of joining the networks varies depending on the type and size of the organization — from $15 per provider per month for small practices to about $10,000 per month for a large hospital system with multiple facilities.
Dittemore said LACIE would defray the fees for providers who join now using federal stimulus dollars that are being awarded to LACIE and KHIN through September based on how many providers connect to their networks and whether those providers meet certain milestones.
For example, he said, "Should a small hospital meet all five milestones at $20,000 per milestone (they could) enjoy the benefits of LACIE without having to pay any additional funds directly from their organization to LACIE for almost six years."
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