Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Researching Network Partners

HRSA’s directory “The Network Guide” last updated February 2012 contains information on 40 Health Center Networks plus helpful tips on how to engage directly with potential network partners. It has proven useful for HRSA grantees, safety net providers, and other healthcare organizations to help find information to better manage their programs. The guide is a collaborative project between HRSA and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

The guide with 25 tables of data provides information on EHRs, quality reporting and incentive programs, membership options, existing member organizations, registries, data warehouses, PHRs, electronic mobile health applications, HIEs, central IT and administrative function support, and accreditation programs.

For example, the Network Guide” provided invaluable information to the White Peak Community Health Center (WPCHC) a large community health center using EHRs to serve residents in rural Eastern Montana. The Center has successfully adopted EHRs, e-prescribes, effectively, uses clinical decision support and other HIT functionalities, and is actively exchanging data electronically with the local hospital.

However, WPCHC concluded that they wouldn’t be able to financially sustain these programs over time using their current general revenue. In addition, the health center’s governance board wanted to obtain Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition.

To help address sustainability, WPCHC realized that partnering with a network could help them share resources and achieve savings. To begin the search for a partnership opportunity, WPCHC consulted the Network Guide and their 25 tables loaded with information to begin the search for a network. They needed to partner with a national network since Montana does not have any active networks in just the state.

The next step was to use the Network Guide to identify networks that could work with their current EHR vendor and be able to continue the same EHR maintenance schedule that the Center needs. Lastly, they needed to identify networks that could and would work with members on PCMH accreditation.

A strategy was developed after the research was completed. At that point, the WPCHC leadership went to the Board with a proposed sustainability strategy that WPCHC should join a national network to support their long term sustainability and at the same time, WPCHC would be able to achieve PCMH accreditation.

In another instance, the New York Village Health Network (NYVHN) a designated HCCN helping members implement EHRs was quickly starting to expand their service offerings by developing mobile applications to support telehealth.

NYVHN hosts patient portals and has established online communities to engage patients and as a result, the network has collected and houses various types of data for its members. This information flows in from multiple sources and has been categorized into several buckets within the NYVHN data warehouse.

NYVHN found that they needed additional help so that members could receive additional assistance to analyze health outcomes data and feedback received from patients. This meant that the network needed to expand its data analytic services but did not know where to begin given the network’s limited data analytic expertise and resources.

By using the information in the Network Guide, NYVHN was able to identify colleagues that could help with hosting data warehouses, provide data analysis, support services, and identify networks. This assistance from partnering colleagues can help to support clients with administrative data for quality measurement, reporting, and decision-making. In addition NYVHN is also trying to reach out to networks to help clients use benchmarking techniques and develop comparative analysis to meet industry best practices.

For more information, go to www.hrsa.gov.healthit/networkguide/networkguide.pdf.