Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alaska's Health Tech News

In 2010, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHHS) signed a cooperative agreement with the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for HIT to create a HIE in the state. The state awarded a contract to the Alaska eHealth Network (AeHN) to procure and manage the development of the HIE network.

According to the AeHN publication “Exchange” the Network has initiated a HIE pilot to include hospitals and ambulatory clinics. The sites include the Alaska Heart Institute, Alaska Native Medical Center, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Providence Hospital, Tanana Valley Clinic in Fairbanks, and Valley Medical Center in Juneau. Upon completion of the pilot phase in April, AeHN will begin to implement HIE services statewide.

The selected HIE vendor, Orion Health has planned a very aggressive implementation schedule for 2011 to include over 300 interfaces. Initial services for the providers will include secure sharing of information on labs, prescriptions, demographics, admission discharges, and permits the transfer of ADT data.

“VacTRAK”, the state immunization system and the “Laboratory Information Management System” will be connected to the HIE through implementation of 20 state interfaces that are included in the agreement between AeHN and Orion Health.

All providers in the state are eventually expected to connect to the statewide HIE, including Medicare, Medicaid, commercial providers as well as the Alaska Tribal Health System and federal partners in Alaska such as the VA, DOD, and Coast Guard.

Alaska’s Regional Extension Center (REC) managed by AeHN opened in 2010. Primary care provider members are eligible for up to $3,000 available from ARRA funds to obtain REC technical services to help adopt or upgrade to certified EHRs, and to improve their competencies in EHR use. Rural or critical access hospitals can qualify for up to $12,000 in ARRA funds and services are also available to all other providers at lower, contracted partners rates.

Alaska’s DHSS is rebuilding the state’s Medicaid claims processing and payment system as the current system is about 20 years old. The new MMIS will be complete with a new claims payment system along with a claims data warehouse information system and is due to go live in the spring of 2012. The new web-enabled Medicaid system will be in place to administer all Medicaid programs and will have a number of self-service features.

The Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA) created the “Alaska Community Health Integrated Network” (ACHIN) to implement HIT resources to serve safety net clinics across the state. The plan is to build a Wide Area Network to support centralized servers, software, video conferencing, and telehealth applications. Nine Community Health Clinics are going to take part and other CHCs are expected to join in the future. APCA received additional funding from HRSA to add ACHIN services and will customize EMR application templates to support behavioral health services.

An FCC contract was filed by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium on behalf of the AeHN with a three year $10.4 million contract award. The objective of the FCC contract is to unify separate electronic health care networks in the state to be able to supply rural health providers with connectivity not only in Alaska, but also in the lower 48. A FCC approved Request for Proposal is expected to be released no later than June, 2011.

The DHHS and their Division of Health Care Services is supporting NHIN along with monitoring the progress of NHIN/CONNECT. This is taking place through dialogue with DOD and the VA and by communicating with EPIC and Kaiser who are significant providers in the healthcare community.

For more information on AeHN, go to, or email Jim Landon at, or call (866) 966-9030 extension 4.