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Health care IT startup Allied primed to serve state system

The startup company that former TechQuest PA leader Kelly Lewis began last month is positioned to be one of six information technology companies to provide services to doctors’ offices and medical institutions in the state’s new health information exchange.

Lewis left the technology trade group in May to be the president and CEO of his own company, Harrisburg-based Allied Health Information Exchange Co. That move came less than a month before the state was to authorize six such companies — including Lewis’ startup — to be health information service providers, or HISPs, for a statewide exchange system.

Allied will provide secure IT services for the electronic transfer of medical records among doctors to better treat patients, with a focus on establishing a national health information exchange by starting with a localized geographic basis, Lewis said.

“Once we land a client, we’ll aggregate (additional medical offices) around that client so the service is meaningful to them,” he said.

One by one, Allied plans to sign up doctors’ offices and health systems around that first client steadily building outward, he said. It will aim to replicate that model in other locations, allowing health care systems with facilities across multiple regions and states to use one exchange, preventing redundancy and streamlining the process, he said.

“(Otherwise) in theory, they’d have to join 40 different exchanges,” Lewis said.

On May 22, Allied partnered with Nashville-based Informatics Corporation of America, or ICA, to provide the technology and software backbone, according to the companies.

“Allied Health Information Exchange is what I consider the next evolution in HIEs because they’re a for-profit company bringing these solutions for health care,” said John Tempesco, ICA’s chief marketing officer.

ICA’s exchange product, CareAlign, grew out of 2005 efforts by Vanderbilt University Medical Center to create an information exchange, Tempesco said. It soon became a commercialized regional system for other health care organizations, he said.

Allied’s model is similar to how ICA’s exchange already works, Tempesco said. Its flexibility allows use on large scales by states, including Kansas and Iowa, as well as small communities and regions, he said.

Allied also will bring specialty health care facilities onto the exchange, Lewis said. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are the main push of exchanges today, but existing legislation doesn’t adequately address the need for meaningful use of electronic medical records in specialties such as mental health, he said.

“Unfortunately, (those specialties) also are where most of the health care in the U.S. is performed,” Tempesco said. “Hospitals represent only about 15 percent of all health care.”

Allied’s local-first approach with a national exchange vision coincides with a new state system centered around the HISPs to enlist medical facilities and doctors’ offices to use the state exchange, known as the Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative.

Initially, the state looked at incentivizing doctors and hospitals to sign onto the collaborative, said Robert Torres, the state’s health information technology coordinator.

“The approach isn’t new,” he said. “Other states have used incentives to try to get people signed up for exchanges.”

However, Pennsylvania switched gears. Instead of writing grants to doctors’ offices, the state will incentivize the HISP companies to sign up health care providers, he said. Six companies, including Allied, are slated to offer services on or shortly after June 1, he said.

The state allocated $2 million for the incentives, which will go to the HISPs based on the number of health care providers they sign up, Torres said. The state is wrapping up technical reviews to make sure the systems meet federal guidelines for the information exchanges, including privacy laws, he said.

The state spent the past year consulting hospital systems, doctors, insurance and technology companies to prepare the collaborative. It speeds the secure transfer of electronic medical records for better patient care among unrelated doctors and hospitals. Hundreds of physicians have said they’re ready to sign on to use the exchanges, Torres said.

“I think the market is at least interested in the service,” he said.

Allied is getting in on the ground floor of that because of its partnership with ICA, a well-respected health care IT provider, Lewis said. Allied plans to offer the technology at the lowest possible rates to physicians, in part by spreading the cost over a large pool of clients, he said. That means as its membership grows the cost per member declines, he said. The company is trying to raise about $1 million in capital backing, as well as bringing other IT companies on as partners.

“The technology isn’t difficult,” Lewis said. “It’s the surrounding culture and legalities of health care that’s complicated.”

Businesses collaborative

Six IT companies will spearhead Pennsylvania’s attempts to sign up doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health care groups to use the statewide health information exchange, also know as the Pennsylvania eHealth Collaborative, by providing secure information exchanges. Here’s the complete list of the health information service providers or HISPs:

• Allied Health Information Exchange Co., based in Harrisburg.

GSI Health, based in New York City.

Keystone Health Information Exchange, an exchange spearheaded by Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System.

Secure Exchange Solutions, based in Bethesda, Md.

MaxMD, based in Fort Lee, N.J.

MedPlus Inc., based in Mason, Ohio.

Source: Robert Torres, Pa. health information technology coordinator

Jim T. Ryan

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