- In a deal unlike virtually any seen in health IT, two of California's largest health insurers have set plans to create what is likely to be the largest health information sharing network in the U.S.
- The California Integrated Data Exchange will link two of the state's biggest health plans, competing Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California.
- The network should be up and running by the end of the year and should include the health records of about 9 million Blue Shield and Anthem patients.
This is such an unusual deal that it may be unparalleled in the history of HIEs to date. Not only are the two insurance giants connecting within a few months, at the end of three years the network should include 30 large medical provider organizations.
This approach is in sharp contrast to the way most HIEs form, which is usually by agreement of a handful of local providers, overseen by a regional non-profit operating the exchange and funded by state or local grants. While HIEs vary, of course, a large number have had trouble surviving, as it has been very difficult for them to convince participating providers to pay the expenses of running the exchange.
In the case of this HIE, however, a different dynamic entirely is governing the deal. It is run by Cal INDEX, a nonprofit, but the deep pockets of the insurers are carrying the effort forward—at least for now. The health plans are funding the HIE with $80 million in seed money over the next three years, after which Cal INDEX should be funded by subscription fees from participating insurers and providers.
While it's possible that at that point Cal INDEX will face from the same troubles other HIEs have had in convincing providers to shell out, that's less likely given the rolling start it's getting. Providers will already be on board and will probably have integrated Cal Index into their workflow. In other words, this HIE probably has what it takes to sustain itself over the long haul.
Want to read more? You may enjoy this story about the formation of the Great Lakes Health Connect, another of the largest HIEs in the nation.