Governor Steve Bullock today announced the state received $19 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to support a statewide health information exchange that will give providers access to patient data in real time to improve the quality of care and reduce health care costs.
“If we are going to ensure patients receive superior care and reduce burdening health care costs, we have to finally move into the 21st century and go beyond paper health records,” said Governor Bullock. “A statewide health information exchange brings providers together to collectively use common sense and secure technology to improve health outcomes for Montanans.”
Governor Bullock tasked the Governor’s Council on Health Care Innovation in 2015 with looking for ways to establish a statewide health information exchange to improve patient care, save time and resources for providers, and reduce costs. After a feasibility study determined a health information exchange was viable, a coalition of health care providers and public and private health plans moved forward with forming nonprofit organization Big Sky Care Connect to develop a health information exchange. Big Sky Care Connect plans to start sharing data in 2020.
On Wednesday, Governor Bullock signed an executive order designating Big Sky Care Connect as the statewide health information exchange.
“We’re grateful to Governor Bullock and the Department for their support,” said Dr. Jon Griffin. “Big Sky Care Connect is going to help everyone – providers, hospitals, insurers, and patients – give and receive their best care Montana has to offer. This is an exciting first step into the future of health care in Montana.”
Big Sky Care Connect will operate the statewide coordinated health information exchange, which allows health data to be shared electronically in real time with participating providers across the state. The system will connect records from pharmacies, labs and imaging, urgent care, specialists, doctor offices and hospitals and other providers such as dentists and optometrists. Without a statewide health information exchange, records are shared by fax, mailing printed copies, and limited secure direct messaging.
Providers will be able to have a complete picture of a patient’s health before recommending treatment. For example, if a patient can’t remember all the medication they are taking, the provider would be able to see the patient’s prescription history to ensure a new medication won’t cause a dangerous reaction. Making records electronically available will also prevent unnecessary or duplicative procedures or testing to reduce costs. A statewide health information exchange will also help providers better understand the health of a specific population and coordinate a response.
The funding is provided through a 90/10 federal match. CMS provided $19 million and the state’s 10 percent share is comprised of an appropriation from the 2019 legislature and private funds Big Sky Care Connect has raised. Big Sky Care Connect is working with data privacy and security experts to select a technology vendor that specializes in creating secure systems to manage health care data.