Indiana health net will aid nursing homes

CHICAGO -- The Indiana Health Information Exchange, one of the country’s most advanced regional health information organizations, aims to include three nursing homes among its users by the end of the year.

Steve Hammer, vice president of business intelligence at Beverly Enterprises, a large nursing home operator, said the company and two others had signed agreements with the information exchange, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organizations that links health care and medical services providers in central Indiana.

Once network connections are in place, the three nursing homes will be able to obtain and add to residents’ medical records, test results and other data in the exchange.

Hammer said the nursing homes’ lawyers are reviewing the agreements and have raised concerns about privacy and security. Once they complete the reviews, the homes can establish the data connections. He said he hoped the data exchange could be running by year’s end.

If the three initial links are successful, more nursing homes may join the exchange, Hammer said.

The Indiana exchange is one of five major regional projects supported by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. It also has received other grant funding.

The exchange is moving toward self-sufficiency, said Dr. Marc Overhage, a physician who is its president and chief executive officer. He and Hammer spoke at the Long-Term Care Health IT Summit.

Hammer said the information exchange will help each nursing home determine whether it can care for a prospective resident and prepare for residents’ arrival. Once the resident moves in, nursing home employees can continue doctor-prescribed treatments.

Today, patients sometimes arrive at nursing homes with Post-It notes stuck to their chests, explaining their conditions or special situations, such as medication allergies, he said. Sometimes, Hammer said, patients arrive with no records at all and cannot describe their medical histories or provide contact information of relatives.

Care coordination is a major issue for nursing home residents and their families, said nursing home representatives at the conference.

Although Hammer expressed support for sharing patient records among their health care providers, he said it’s not the total answer to data and information issues that arise in the course of providing health care. Nursing homes still will have to interview residents and families to get health histories and other information, including insurance and billing data, he said.

Also, he asked, “who’s going to be accountable for its being right, wrong or incomplete?” Data quality issues will be important, he said.

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