The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has kicked off a new HIE connecting its properties with other health systems in western Pennsylvania. The project, which should bring together access to more than 7 million patient records, goes into direct competition with that being launched by major state health insurer Highmark Inc.
UPMC’s HIE, ClinicalConnect, brings together its facilities with clinicians at Butler Health System, Heritage Valley Health System, Altoona Regional Health System, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, Excela Health, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, St. Claire Hospital and Washington Hospital. While reports don’t describe how ClinicalConnect is being funded, you’ve gotta believe the $9 billion UPMC is fronting a lot of cash.
This move sets up an interesting competitive situation on the state, a fairly unusual one given that it’s built around an HIE.
Right now, UPMC is the 2,000 pound gorilla of western PA. Meanwhile, $14.6 billion Highmark is one of the dominant health insurers in the state. And now they’re going head to head on the HIE front. Mean ol’ Highmark has publicly announced its intention to build a system with UPMC’s bitter rival West Penn Allegheny Health, and as part of its plans, expects to launch a statewide HIE that could conceivably bypass UPMC’s regional effort.
When asked by a reporter whether the two HIEs can work together, their spokespeople basically said “Humph!” and denied that anyone cared about competition. Oh yeah, we definitely believe that.
What interests me about this hoo-haw is that it both organizations seem to see their HIE as critical to their delivery network development efforts. While it makes perfect sense, it hasn’t been a big theme in HIE discussions to date. (My sense is that most hospital CIOs have seen HIEs as plumbing rather than a value-add.)
Interesting stuff here. I’m eager to see what happens next.