CMS bears much of the cost to build Montana HIE

Money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is helping Montana build a statewide health information exchange.

CMS is paying $19 million, representing most of the funds for the project; the state’s 10 percent share comprises an appropriation from the legislature and private funds.

The HIE aims to give providers access to patient data in real time to improve care quality and cut healthcare costs. It fulfills an order from Gov. Steve Bullock in 2015, who directed the Governor’s Council on Health Care Innovation to find ways to establish the HIE.

A coalition of providers and public and private health plans formed a non-profit organization, Big Sky Care Connect, to build the health information exchange with the goal to start sharing data in 2020.

“If we are going to ensure patients receive superior care and reduce burdening healthcare costs, we have to finally move into the 21st century and go beyond paper health records,” Bullock says. “A statewide health information exchange brings providers together to collectively use common sense and secure technology to improve health outcomes for Montanans.”

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Jon Griffin, chief medical innovation officer at St. Peters’ Health, says Big Sky Connect will help providers, hospitals and insurers to give patients the best care Montana has to offer.

Big Sky Care Connect will operate the HIE and connect records from pharmacies, laboratories, imaging centers, urgent care, specialists, physician offices, hospitals, dentists and optometrists, among other providers.

Clinicians will be able to have a complete picture of a patient’s health before recommending treatment and be able to see patient prescription histories to be certain that a new medication will not cause an adverse reaction.

The statewide HIE further will aid in preventing duplicative procedures or tests which will reduce costs, and the exchange also is expected to help providers better understand the health of specific populations and develop a response.

The state’s two-year budget cycle included $500,000 to support the HIE, which will be able to exchange data outside of the state to ensure providers can access remote data of a patient if necessary.

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