Six years ago, I interviewed Robert Steffel, the CEO of HealthBridge, an early--and then-rare—example of a health information exchange that actually worked. Back then they were called “RHIOs,” or regional health information organizations. I asked Bob what were the key factors in making the project work and he said it was primarily the spirit of cooperation, but also that the exchange partners were limited in number--their service territories did not highly overlap. Making a data exchange work in a highly competitive, and complicated urban marketplace, such as we have here in Chicago, would be very difficult.

Well, we’re about to see a test case of this notion right here in my home base, the Windy City. As Joe Goedert reported a few weeks back, the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council is spearheading an HIE, one it expects to be “the largest unified metropolitan HIE in the nation, serving more than 9.4 million people.” No doubt, this is an ambitious effort, one that will deserve ongoing attention and coverage. And I plan to do just that—offer regular updates on the exchange, its accomplishments and challenges alike. The story will be a moving target.

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