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State's new e-health authority won't slow IT providers

By - Last modified: June 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM

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The Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority, a governing body that will be established in coming months to oversee the state's health information exchange, won't slow progress by technology companies signing up doctors' offices to participate, state officials and business groups said today.

"For Allied HIE, it's a big development and takes away a lot of uncertainty," said Kelly Lewis, the president and CEO of Allied Health Information Exchange Co., a Harrisburg-based technology provider certified by the state to connect health care offices to the exchange.

The state House of Representatives signed off Wednesday on Senate Bill 8, which creates the authority and establishes the regulatory framework for how an HIE works in Pennsylvania. HIEs allow hospitals and doctors' offices to seamlessly exchange electronic medical records for improved patient care across states and regions.

Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill when it hits his desk, but it's unknown whether that will be this week, said Kirsten Page, a spokeswoman for the governor.

The eHealth Partnership Authority will have some oversight of companies similar to Lewis', which are known as health information service providers, or HISPs. The authority also will manage grants for health IT initiatives under the exchange, including direct grants to the HISPs, as well as outline those areas where the state departments could make decisions independent of the authority, said Dan Egan, a spokesman for the Office of Administration. The office is responsible for state technology initiatives.

"None of the HISPs should be concerned about this affecting reimbursement," he said.

The HISP companies have until Aug. 15 to sign up health care providers to use the statewide exchange, Egan said. After that, the state will reimburse the companies with grants to pay for the tech services being offered to doctors' offices and medical centers based on a per-participant formula, he said.

The state will continue to move forward with exchange implementation until the authority board is formed, he said.

"In no manner does the passage of this bill and the creation of (the authority) provide a disincentive to the private sector entities looking to enter the HIE space," said David Bonsick, president and CEO of TechQuest PA, the Harrisburg-based technology trade group.

"In fact, given that Pennsylvania has been able to learn from other states with regard to the establishment of its statewide exchange, as well as how to ensure sustainability of the exchange going forward, Pennsylvania is in an excellent position to attract a greater number of companies looking to participate in the HIE space," Bonsick said in an email.

Editor's note: This story has been altered from a previous version to correct the description of HISPs.

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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