Sharing hospital data to lower costs and improve care

Sharing hospital data to lower costs and improve care

Five Iowa health care systems are using the Statewide Alert Notification (SWAN) system that provides real-time, secure notifications to Medicaid care teams regarding emergency room visits, admissions and discharges of their members, according to the Iowa Department of Health.

Broadlawns Medical Center, Unity Point Health Partners, Iowa Health+, University of Iowa Health Alliance and Mercy ACO are using SWAN.

SWAN provides real-time, secure notifications to care teams regarding emergency room visits, admissions and discharges of their members. The integrated data “is particularly useful for patients with complex medical conditions who are seen regularly at outside organizations and who would be unlikely to notify us of an admission,” Broadlawns care team coordinator Kelly Jones said.

SWAN connects more than 100 hospitals across Iowa and provides event notifications for more than 630,000 Medicaid members, according to John Doulis, CEO of Informatics Corporation of America, the service provider that built and maintains the SWAN system.

The system is focused on improving timely care coordination to improve outcomes and lower costs, exchanging relevant patient health information between providers and providing greater clinical intelligence.

SWAN was funded with part of the $43.1 million federal State Innovation Model testing grant, awarded in 2015 to Iowa, one of 11 states to receive funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop innovative ways to transform healthcare, improve population health and promote sustainability.

Currently most hospitals struggle to share patient information.  

“There are folks who have a life of going from emergency department to emergency department, and that’s how their day is spent,” Dr. Arthur Sorrell, an emergency physician and administrator at the San Francisco-based Sutter Health hospital, told Kaiser Health News.

Without this information, patients are treated independently, often receiving repeated, unnecessary tests, contradictory advice and multiple case managers when only one is needed.

To combat the issue, six hospitals in Alameda County, Calif., are sharing patient health records and other data among their emergency departments. The program, similar to SWAN, began March 31. Since then two hospitals learned they had more than 2,000 patients in common, and over a third of them made six or more visits to the emergency room in the past year.

PreManage ED tracks the California ER patients. When patient information is entered, the emergency department receives an alert if that patient has visited other hospitals. If so, the emergency department staff can view information about the patient’s recent treatment and find out whether he or she already has a case manager somewhere else, according to the Kaiser report.

Not all hospitals, however, want to share data, Kaiser reported. Dylan Roby, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, said it depends on how the hospital is paid. Facilities dependent on payments they receive for each individual patient visit, for example, may prefer to fill their beds rather than collaborate with competing hospitals, she said.

Alameda County plans to share information with community health clinics and other social service organizations so they can receive alerts from hospitals when their patients seek emergency care.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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