Information exchange places second in national competition

Dick Thompson

A Grand Junction-based organization has received national recognition for its efforts to add community information to a health information exchange.

Quality Health Network (QHN) placed second in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Social Determinants of Health Innovation Challenge. QHN received a $25,000 prize, which will be used to fund the development of its Community Resource Network (CRN).

QHN also received $5,000 as one of five semifinalists in the competition to develop digital solutions that help health care providers and those at risk connect to services. Addressing such needs as adequate food and housing has been shown to improve health care outcomes while reducing costs.

“This award recognizes a lot of hard work from across Western Colorado to tackle the very difficult problem of how to better help care for the whole person,” said Dick Thompson, executive director and chief executive officer of QHN. “CRN is at the forefront of a really exciting breakthrough that will transform how people get the care they need, whether medical, behavioral or social.”

QHN was established in 2004 as a community partnership to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care in Western Colorado. What developed out of that effort was a secure health information exchange that shares electronic records among hospitals, medical practices and public health departments in 20 counties in the region. Thompson said the exchange connects 3,500 users, including 100 percent of the hospitals in the region and 94 percent of other health care providers.

The goal, he said, is to have readily available the same information for a patient whether that’s at a hospital, doctor’s office or other location. The exchange ensures a better continuity of care while avoiding the duplication of tests and treatments.

A joint venture of QHN and Stella Technology, the CRN builds on that effort in addressing other issues that affect the well-being of people, Thompson said.

QHN plans to soon launch a pilot program for the CRN in Mesa County, then expand the exchange to other areas of Western Colorado, he said.

The CRN offers a snapshot of an individual, including family and housing situations as well as information about any resources sought in the past and who’s been contacted to request services. The CRN also offers information about available resources that can meet needs and fill gaps. In addition, the CRN provides information about the appropriate agencies and organizations to contact to arrange for assistance or schedule appointments.

“CRN helps create a self-organizing community wide care team to achieve some basic goals: understanding an individual’s overall needs, leveraging the work and the relationships that are already in place, reducing duplication of services and data entry and prioritizing actions to get the right stuff done at the right time by the right people,” Thompson said. “Ultimately, this will help keep those at risk often avoid unnecessary and expensive acute care settings — as often as we can.”