Four years after legislation paved the way for a massive health information exchange serving up to 89 hospitals in the greater Chicago region, the first wave of facilities will start hooking up in January.

Thirty-four hospitals are preparing to go live on the MetroChicago HIE with the first ones on board during the first quarter of 2014, says Daniel Yunker, CEO of Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Company and senior vice president of the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, which leads the HIE effort. Initial services, live by the end of the quarter, will include admissions/discharge/transfer document exchange, Direct Project secure messaging, a master patient index and record locator. These initial services are achievable for the first 34 hospitals and are sufficient to provide value in the first phase of the HIE, Yunker adds.

Following the first quarter, the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council will start to engage non-hospital participants and work to get more of the hospitals on board, along with expanded functionality. Yunker acknowledges that many hospitals have been waiting to make sure the HIE became real. The goal during the next two years is to get half of the market’s hospitals live.

Sandlot Solutions of Fort Worth, Texas, is the vendor for the core HIE platform along with supporting services from Santa Rosa Consulting of Franklin, Tenn. Sandlot has six other clients: Baylor Quality Alliance and North Texas Specialty Physicians in Texas, Orange Health Solutions and West Florida ACO in Florida, Augusta Health in Virginia and Southern Prairie Community Care in Minnesota.

The Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council in 2010 selected Microsoft Corp. to be its HIE partner, but Microsoft combined its data aggregation, analytics, single-sign-on and context management software with GE Healthcare’s HIE and clinical decision support software to form a joint venture called Caradigm, which later discontinued its HIE product and started reselling data exchange software from Orion Health. Consequently, the council searched for a new platform vendor and decided the Sandlot/Santa Rosa Consulting team was the best fit, Yunker says.

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