Critical Access Hospital Partnership Health Information Technology Implementation (Michigan)

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Project Details - Ended

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Summary:

The Upper Peninsula Health Care Network (UPHCN), comprised of one centrally located regional medical center (Marquette General Hospital), three small rural hospitals, and 10 independently owned and operated Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, joined forces with the overarching aim to improve patient safety and quality of care through the regional planning, development, and implementation of health information technologies. The goal of the UPHCN was to design and deploy a secure health information exchange (HIE) system to enable the communication of patient data between the hospitals through the provision of secure, authorized, and synchronized exchange of patient records. The network is designed to solve a major barrier to improving the quality care for residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where a small population spread over a large geographical area makes access to advanced health care services difficult. The HIE was designed to improve patient safety and efficiency by:

  1. Reducing duplicate tests or other exams when patients are transferred from one provider to another.
  2. Improving inpatient transfers between the critical access hospitals and Marquette General Hospital.
  3. Allowing clinicians to identify which medications a patient is taking when he or she transferred between emergency departments.
  4. Eliminating the need to send a courier service between hospitals to transport laboratory test results, medical records, x-rays, and other important patient data.

The project successfully developed a patient identification system to accurately identify patients and permit authorized physicians and staff access to patient records; established database interoperability of disparate systems by developing a system to map received data to each of the selected site’s electronic medical record system; developed a medical documents exchange system between hospitals within the federated domain; and developed a federated security architecture for accessing, sharing, and transferring various types of medical data. Though all these steps were implemented, there was not sufficient time to test them by the end of the grant period using actual patient identifiers and clinical data. This fact also resulted in an inability to compare pre-installation user survey data with post-installation surveys as required to assess the impacts of the HIE solution at the local level. However, these efforts are continuing past the lifespan of the funded project. Although the Network has yet to become fully operational, the practices used in the planning, preparation, modification, and implementation of this project were effective and should prove to be very applicable, helpful, and relevant to other rural areas seeking to develop a regional health data exchange.

Critical Access Hospital Partnership Health Information Technology Implementation - 2009

Summary Highlights

  • Principal Investigator: 
  • Funding Mechanism: 
    RFA: HS05-013: Limited Competition for AHRQ Transforming Healthcare Quality through Information Technology (THQIT)
  • Project Period: 
    September 2005 – September 2009, Including No-Cost Extension
  • AHRQ Funding Amount: 
    $1,484,167
  • PDF Version: 
    (PDF, 447.47 KB)


Target Population: Rural Health*, Medically Underserved

Summary: The Upper Peninsula Region of Michigan contains almost one-third of the land area of Michigan but just three percent of its population. Due to the geography and demographics of the region, access to advanced health care services is difficult. Nearly all of the region’s 15 counties have full or partial health provider shortage area (HPSA) designation and full dental HPSA designation, and several are designated as medically underserved.

This project designed and deployed a secure health information exchange (HIE) system to enable the communication of patient data among 10 critical access hospitals (CAHs) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and physicians at Marquette General Hospital, the region’s only medical center. The Critical Access Hospital Partnership Health Information Technology Implementation project created a Web-based portal and repository application that allows selected clinical information to be accessed by authorized physicians and other health care providers to enhance patient care delivery and quality reporting. The network seeks to improve patient safety and quality of care through the regional planning, development, and implementation of health information technologies (IT).

The HIE is designed to improve patient safety and efficiency by: reducing duplicate tests or other exams when patients are transferred from one provider to another; improving inpatient transfers between the CAHs and Marquette General; allowing clinicians to identify which medications a patient is taking when he or she is transferred between emergency departments; and eliminating the need for a courier to transport laboratory test results, medical records, x-rays, and other important patient data between hospitals.

Specific Aims:

  • Monitor health IT installations at the project’s partner hospitals in Michigan. (Achieved)
  • Plan, test, and integrate local health IT to the regional HIE. (Achieved)
  • Implement regional HIE systems, central data repository, and services. (Achieved)
  • Evaluate the success of the overall project implementation. (Achieved)
  • Evaluate the impact of technology-supported patient data exchanges and reporting on patient care. (Not Achieved)

2009 Activities: Because the original developer was unable to expand the Marquette HIE system (UP-Care) to include other electronic health record (EHR) systems during the first 3 years of the project, the project team designed and implemented a replacement solution in collaboration with the Michigan Technical University (MTU). The bulk of activities in 2009 involved testing four pilot site servers at MTU with the new HIE architecture. Post-grant ending, there was critical staff turnover and the data exchanges were never fully implemented. Therefore, the final evaluation aim was not completed.

Grantee’s Most Recent Self-Reported Quarterly Status (as of September 2009): Although the HIE system successfully operates among the four pilot site servers at MTU, there was insufficient time to deploy the HIE servers to the pilot sites and to test the system using actual patient identifiers and clinical data. The project was therefore unable to compare pre-installation user survey data with post-installation surveys as required to assess the impacts of the HIE solution at the local level.

Impact and Findings: During the 4-year implementation phase of the project, the scope of the project was expanded to include 13 of the 14 hospitals in the Upper Peninsula Health Care Network. Eleven of these rural community hospitals acquired and installed EHR systems within their facilities. This greatly enhanced the network’s capacity to create the necessary electronic patient records to be shared between providers in the HIE.

The creation of interfaces between the central HIE and each of the four separate EHR vendor systems was a significant challenge for the project. Each site tested different clinical software, which made compatibility difficult. Several hospitals needed to upgrade their EHRs to transmit data with the HIE to achieve connection.

Lack of data reporting consistency among hospitals was also an issue. To overcome these data compatibility issues, project leaders established a standards committee with broad representation from the participating organizations. The group selected standards such as Health Level Seven International, Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes, and Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine for transmitting information. Recent work at the national level should greatly reduce this barrier in the future.

Project leaders had to contend with physicians’ reluctance to change the way they report data to the HIE. To address this issue, project leaders provided technical training and continuing education for physicians. Project staff also surveyed doctors thought to be the most reluctant to embrace the project. The survey gauged their potential concerns and fears about the project. Staff then worked with these doctors to address their concerns and help them become comfortable with the software.

Although the network has yet to become fully operational and has not achieved all its original objectives, the practices used in the planning, preparation, modification, and implementation of this project were effective and should prove to be applicable, helpful, and relevant to other rural areas seeking to develop a regional HIE.

More detail on the project findings is included in Mr. Wheeler’s final report: Wheeler 2009 Final Report.

Strategic Goal: Develop and disseminate health IT evidence and evidence-based tools to improve health care decisionmaking through the use of integrated data and knowledge management.

Business Goal: Implementation and Use

*AHRQ Priority Population

Critical Access Hospital Partnership Health Information Technology Implementation - Final Report

Citation:
Wheeler D. Critical Access Hospital Partnership Health Information Technology Implementation - Final Report. (Prepared by Upper Peninsula Health Care Network under Grant No. UC1 HS016152). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2009. (PDF, 431.98 KB)

The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the author(s), who are responsible for its content, and do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. No statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Principal Investigator: 
Document Type: 
This project does not have any related resource.
This project does not have any related survey.
This project does not have any related project spotlight.
This project does not have any related survey.

Michigan Electronic Medical Records Project Provides Lessons Learned for Data Exchange

Donald Wheeler, FACHEWhen it comes to implementing information technology in health care settings, the lessons learned from addressing technological and cultural challenges can be just as valuable as the easier barriers that need to be overcome. That's what project leaders who are creating a centralized electronic medical records (EMR) system for hospitals in rural Michigan have found.

Ten critical access hospitals (CAHs) in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are working together to create a regional health information network that will allow for the communication of patient data with physicians at Marquette General Hospital -- the region's only level II trauma center. The hospitals are part of the Upper Peninsula Health Information Partnership, based in Marquette. In 2005, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality awarded the group a three-year, $1.5 million grant to improve patient safety and quality of care through the regional planning, development and implementation of health information technology (health IT).

The network is designed to solve a major barrier to improving the quality care for residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where a small population spread over a large geographical area makes access to advanced health care services difficult. Project officials hope that a Web-based central repository of patient data will go a long way toward improving patient safety and efficiency by:

  • Reducing duplicate tests or other exams when patients are transferred from one provider to another;
  • Improving inpatient transfers between the critical access hospitals and Marquette General;
  • Allowing clinicians to identify which medications a patient is taking when he or she is transferred between emergency departments; and
  • Eliminating the need to send a courier service between hospitals to transport laboratory test results, medical records, x-rays, and other important patient data.

For example, a patient's information could be electronically recorded in the rural hospital's computer system and then updated in real time to the central database. If additional consultation is needed, a specialist at Marquette could retrieve the data and view a patient's lab results, x-rays or other diagnostic information.

Marquette General Hospital has a health IT system that it created several years ago to connect its own 175 physicians. That structure serves as the hub to link the CAHs and Marquette General. In addition, rural CAHs already have various forms of EMR systems in place and connect to Marquette General's system for services such as video teleconferencing and educational programs.

To avoid the potential technical glitches of linking all of the hospitals at once, the project is being tested in several stages. In the first phase, Helen Newberry Joy Hospital and Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital were linked to the clinical data repository. In addition to the two pilot facilities, participating hospitals include Baraga County Memorial Hospital, Bell Memorial Hospital, Grand View Health System, Iron County Community Hospital, Keweenaw Memorial Medical Center, Mackinac Straits Hospital, Munising Memorial Hospital, and Ontonagon Memorial Hospital.

Hospitals Overcome Technical, Cultural Challenges of Data Exchange

The project's first phase was not without glitches. Each pilot site tested different clinical software, which made compatibility difficult. To achieve connection, Helen Newberry Joy and Schoolcraft Memorial hospitals' clinical software systems required a series of upgrades to transmit data back and forth to the clinical repository at Marquette General.

"The toughest part is creating the interfaces during the pilots," says Donald Wheeler, FACHE, and the project's principal investigator.

In addition, data were not reported consistently between hospitals. And project leaders had the additional challenge of ensuring that patient confidentiality standards as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were met when transmitting patient data.

Communication among the hospitals about the necessary technological fixes also became a challenge, explains Guy Hembroff, assistant professor and chair of the Computer Network Administration program at Michigan Tech University. Too many middlemen were involved in the process, causing a communications breakdown.

To overcome these barriers, project leaders established a standards committee, with broad representation from the participating organizations. The group set standards for data consistency, using standards such as HL7, LOINC and SNOMED for transmitting information.

"The largest obstacle was compatibility," Hembroff says. "It's a lot of trial and error that had to happen."

In addition to technical barriers, project leaders had to contend with physicians' reluctance to change the way they report data to the central repository. One project site also experienced delays after its health IT director left. To address the issue, project leaders began providing technical training and continuing education for physicians. In addition, Hembroff created a survey for doctors who he thought might be the most reluctant to embrace the project. The survey gauged their potential concerns and fears about the project. Hembroff and others then worked with those doctors to address their concerns and help them get comfortable with the software. Later, they went on to champion the project to other physicians, he says.

Pilots Serve As Learning Lab for Future Data Exchange Projects

Today, Helen Newberry Joy and Schoolcraft Memorial hospitals are exchanging clinical and lab data with Marquette General. The lessons learned through this pilot have provided valuable insights for introducing the system to additional hospitals.

Project officials hope that the existing infrastructure ultimately will support an automated pharmacy system, give hospitals greater access to radiologists who can help interpret images, and help facilities retrieve andstore images in a Picture Archiving and Communications System.

Wheeler believes that the lessons learned from creating an EMR system that can be shared with multiple hospitals will help others embarking on data-sharing projects. Small, rural hospitals, which in many cases have shared resources out of necessity over the years, are the perfect learning lab, he says.

"Many people are excited by the idea of sharing data. The key is vision, determination and a willingness to roll up your sleeves," Wheeler says. 

This project does not have any related emerging lesson.