The Heartland Health board approved a plan Wednesday to begin sharing control of the Kansas City area's largest developing digital health information exchange, with the goal of getting more area hospitals and health care providers to join the network by the end of the year.
Heartland began in 2008 funding and steering the development of the Lewis and Clark Information Exchange, or LACIE. It was envisioned to be an independent, non-profit regional network for secure electronic exchange of patient records among health care providers in the KC area and beyond.
But most Kansas City hospitals and doctors have been reluctant to sign on with LACIE as long as Heartland maintained control. Heartland is a competing St. Joseph-based health system that has been expanding into north Kansas City.
LACIE chief executive Jeff Bloemker said it became apparent that getting major Kansas City providers to join would require distancing the network from Heartland.
"There was a stronger likelihood that they would join an independent entity than one owned by another health system," Bloemker said. "As we met with folks, it was an issue that was brought up. It was one of the concerns that they had, so we've worked to address that and I think in the coming weeks we'll see the results."
Bloemker said that 11 organizations — "the major players in the Kansas City market" — have verbally committed to joining LACIE pending the formation of more representative leadership board for the network. Bloemker wouldn't say which organizations have committed pending the formalization of legal agreements, which he said likely would be completed by year's end.
"The overwhelming majority of the Kansas City market and the players of the market have agreed to participate," he said.
The new LACIE board likely will have nine to 11 members representing large hospitals, community hospitals, critical access hospitals, safety net clinics, patients and providers on both sides of the state line. The board's exact make-up and how it would be appointed have yet to be determined, Bloemker said.
"The new collaborative has got to figure out how to do that. The group has already met once and has committed to meeting again on how to formulate that and make that work in a way that everyone's comfortable with," he said, adding "Heartland will have one equal voice out of the nine to 11."
LACIE is one of two networks licensed licensed in Kansas as part of a developing statewide information exchange. The other is the Kansas Health Information Network, or KHIN. The state-designated entity overseeing development of Missouri's statewide network — Missouri Health Connection — is still forming and has yet to announce signing its first participant.
So far, three Kansas City hospital systems have joined LACIE, network officials said: Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Olathe Medical Center.
KHIN has signed the University of Kansas Hospital and KU Medical Center, but is unlikely to make major inroads in the greater KC area. Executive director Laura McCrary said that KHIN does not actively market to Missouri-based providers.
"If our providers that do join us — like KU for example — have practices in Missouri," KHIN will work to connect those practices, McCrary said. "But we're not going to go into Missouri and talk to Children's or talk to Truman or any Missouri providers because our focus is on Kansas."
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. Quicker access to more complete patient information is expected to improve patient care, help cut medical costs by avoiding redundant and ineffective treatments, as well as reduce errors.
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