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DHHS Awards $12.8 Million for Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center in Idaho and Washington

February 16, 2010

Qualis Health Awarded Recovery Act Funds to Assist Healthcare Providers Using Health IT

Seattle, WA - The states of Idaho and Washington will soon benefit from the award of $12,846,482 in federal funds to establish a Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (REC) led by Qualis Health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced grant awards to a select group of RECs across the nation. Each center will offer technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to help healthcare providers advance the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. The consistent, nationwide adoption and use of secure electronic health records (EHRs) will ultimately enhance the quality and value of healthcare.

The center at Qualis Health is among the first to be funded, and it will provide an integrated, comprehensive suite of services to priority providers across Idaho and Washington.

“We are very pleased to have put together a consortium of premier health IT adoption organizations to provide technical services in our region,” said Jonathan Sugarman, MD, MPH, Qualis Health's President and CEO. Qualis Health forged a coalition among community organizations across the two-state region in support of a single, collaborative, region-wide application. In addition to Qualis Health, the REC partners – Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), Community Choice Health Network, PTSO of Washington, North Idaho Health Network, and Idaho Health Data Exchange – each bring a broad base of technical capacity and existing provider relationships that assure effective implementation of this work.

“The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) is pleased to once again be working with Qualis Health on the Regional Extension Center project. Their leadership on this initiative will play a key role on our shared vision to provide health IT services to more Washington residents,” said Richard Onizuka, PhD, Washington State Health IT Coordinator and Director of Health Care Policy for the HCA. “Qualis Health has been a major partner in our efforts to expand health IT throughout Washington. Based on their proven track record, we are confident in the success of this project.”

The regional centers selected by DHHS will provide intensive technical assistance to primary care clinicians, with a particular emphasis on individual and small group practices. Clinicians in such practices deliver the majority of primary care, but have the lowest rates of adoption of EHR systems, and the least access to resources to help them implement, use and maintain such systems. Centers will also focus intensive technical assistance on clinicians providing primary care in public and critical access hospitals, community health centers, and in other settings that predominantly serve uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved populations.

“Qualis Health has had long and productive relationships with Idaho healthcare providers and the Division of Medicaid to improve quality of care for patients,” said Idaho Medicaid Administrator Leslie M. Clement. “We have complete confidence that Qualis Health has the stakeholder relationships, on-the-ground technical skills, and program management that will make the organization a successful Regional Center.”

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Qualis Health is dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare delivery and health outcomes for individuals and populations across the nation. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the nonprofit healthcare quality improvement and consulting organization strives to achieve performance excellence for our clients by focusing on best practices and providing a range of services that lead to better quality care, higher patient and provider satisfaction, and greater efficiency. Qualis Health serves as the CMS-designated Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) for Washington and Idaho, providing quality improvement and health information technology consulting, as well as care management services, to more than three million Medicaid clients in five states.

Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), a non-profit corporation based in Spokane, Washington, provides the backbone for current and future innovative technologies in health information exchange. INHS connects 38 hospitals throughout the region, allowing physicians and healthcare providers to securely access critical patient information utilizing wired and wireless technologies. The INHS health information technology network includes thousands of physicians, hundreds of clinics and physician offices and more than 3.5 million electronic medical records. INHS also implements and supports physician office electronic medical record systems, making it easy for physicians to transition from paper to electronic records. For more information, visit www.inhs.org.

Community Choice is a healthcare consortium composed of regional healthcare organizations including five hospitals and 10 clinics with a total of 200+ physician members in North Central Washington. Community Choice is also a management support organization providing assistance in information technology implementation, recruitment of healthcare disciplines, HIPPA compliance training, cultural competency in healthcare, and overall leadership in keeping up with the constantly changing healthcare environment. Community Choice has led the North Central Washington region of the state in developing broadband connectivity among providers, implementing telemedicine modalities, and significant adoption of electronic medical records. One of three consumer-centric Health Record Bank pilots in the state, Community Choice works to improve consumer access to healthcare and to create a more integrated and cost efficient healthcare community.

PTSO of Washington (PTSO) works in partnership with Community Health Centers (CHCs) to improve patient care through shared, cost effective technology services. PTSO is a Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN) delivering healthcare technology and supporting services to CHCs. Incorporated in 2004, PTSO provides software development, application management, infrastructure support, project management, and ongoing support services for clinical care delivery and patient management systems. PTSO has successfully implemented Electronic Health Record and Practice Management systems at eight CHCs and over 55 clinic sites. PTSO’s member CHCs provide quality healthcare services to Washington State’s low-income and vulnerable populations.

North Idaho Health Network (NIHN) is the trusted, local health resource working to optimize health care by creating solutions designed to educate the community and achieve high quality, cost-effective, evidence based care at the local level. For 15 years, NIHN has been making a difference in the communities we serve. NIHN represents 98% of the physicians and the five non-profit community owned hospitals in North Idaho. SyMed LLC is a subsidiary of NIHN. Together SyMed LLC and NIHN are committed to improving patient care through the use of electronic health records. SyMed’s NextGen enterprise system includes more than 70 clinics throughout north Idaho and Washington.

The Idaho Health Data Exchange (IHDE) is a collaborative effort to improve coordination and quality of healthcare through development and implementation of a statewide health information exchange. IHDE, a 501(c)(6) corporation, is the work product of Idaho's Health Quality Planning Commission, which was created by the Legislature and appointed by the Governor to develop a plan for the implementation of a statewide exchange. IHDE is working to link healthcare providers, hospitals, labs, and imaging centers to make more complete patient information available at the point of care.

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