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By expanding healthcare network, MU Health Care assists small practices in making technological care connections.
In another move to coordinate care among residents in counties throughout central, northeast and southeastern Missouri, The University of Missouri Health Care will extend its population health management platform across five affiliated independent healthcare organizations.
The agreement also includes a commitment to improve interoperability between electronic health records (EHRs) used by MU Health Care’s affiliated organizations, which will lay the groundwork for small independent practices serving patients in the region to use the population health system.
The revised platform, which is scheduled to go live this spring, will allow MU Health Care to exchange clinical and claims data, demographic and socioeconomic data and other patient information with five other health systems that, along with MU Health Care, are members of the Health Network of Missouri (HNM), a collaborative of six independent health care organizations that use several different EHRs.
By developing a population health platform that provides a longitudinal record of patients’ care, providers at HNM organizations can access a system that will help their care teams improve care coordination and identify gaps in care. Additionally, information gathered in the system will provide timely information about patients’ conditions and help providers intervene when their condition worsens.
Improving the platform’s interoperability between disparate EHR systems is a significant step toward encouraging doctors at small practices to connect to a system that is also used by HNM facilities to treat the same population of patients.
Tom Tisone, executive director at HNM told Medical Economics that his organization is developing a plan to help independent practices join the network. He said many small practices are on EHRs that can’t scale to manage population health requirements. Furthermore, participating in a population health initiative comes with associated costs that involve employing more staff and technology.
Even with these drawbacks, Tisone said many small practices want to participate in population health initiatives from payers to receive financial incentives if their practice improves patient outcomes and reduces costs.
“Our goal is to support independent physicians that treat patients who live near HNM’s participating facilities,” Tisone said. “We are exploring the best way to bring small independent practices onto the population health platform to further clinically integrate the network. That means working on data quality, making sure their EHR systems can integrate with our platform and generally getting them on the platform in a cost-effective manner.”
Small practice physicians can improve the treatment of groups of patients if they have access to a population health platform that can analyze large patient data sets. For example, a case manager can run a report on those women that have not had their annual mammograms. By identifying those patients in the system, practices can reach out to those patients and remind them to go for their breast cancer screenings.
While executives at HNM are considering the best way to include small practice physicians into their population health plans, Tisone said it’s very important that the organization reach out to these doctors because they are on the frontlines of care in the counties where their HNM affiliated health care organizations operate.
“We want to incorporate small independent physician practices into our population health plans because we want to effectively treat groups of patients in the communities where they live,” Tisone said.