Major investment in Montana’s health information exchange


Date: May 20, 2022

Brooke Stroyke, Office of the Governor
Jon Ebelt, Department of Public Health and Human Services

BILLS, Mon. — Along with Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) director Adam Meier and Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC) board chairman Ben Tyrrell, Gov. Greg Gianforte today announced a $20 investment million dollars in the state health information exchange (HIE).

“This critical investment in Montana’s healthcare IT ecosystem will support ongoing efforts to improve the overall experience for patients and physicians statewide while saving lives, creating efficiencies and saving taxpayers’ money,” said Governor Gianforte. “Fast and secure access to medical records — regardless of location — is critical, especially in emergency situations where time is of the essence.”

Gov. Gianforte, Billings Clinic CEO Scott Ellner, and BSCC’s Ben Tyrrell discuss Montana’s investment in the state HIE

BSCC is Montana’s state-approved HIE, a platform that enables physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically – improving the speed, quality, safety, and cost of patient care .

Currently over 75 medical provider organizations and more than half of Montana’s hospital systems are registered as partners with Big Sky Care Connect. These organizations include more than 350 provider locations across the state.

“BSCC is committed to serving as Montana’s HIE and welcomes the opportunity to advance this project in the years to come,” Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell said DPHHS connected its Medicaid entitlement system in November 2021. BSCC is working to add other health insurance organizations and other payers. BSCC is also working with more than 40 other providers to connect to the HIE.

Tyrrell said he hopes more vendors will sign up now that this contract is in place. “This investment should reassure vendors that Montana is committed to continuing to provide quality HIE in the future,” he said.

Meier said the end result is increased efficiency. “No matter where in Montana a person seeks treatment, it is more efficient when providers can access patient health information at the point of care,” he said. “Once fully implemented, this platform will bring together all healthcare communities across the state, and critical patient information will follow the patient when and where it is needed most.”

Meier acknowledges that access to a comprehensive patient record saves valuable time that would otherwise be spent searching and retrieving patient information, and that access to a comprehensive patient record saves valuable time and frees providers more time with the patient.

The bulk of the funds will be allocated to further design, development and implementation of the current system, including work to expand current technology while also adding new subscribers and implementing new services. The development and implementation phase will last until 2023. Thanks to support from DPHHS, the project raised $15 million in federal funding. Additional funding sources include over $4 million in private contributions and $800,000 in government funding.

The announcement also included a panel discussion with several of Billings’ public health leaders, including Dr. Steven Arbogast, a neurologist at the Billings Clinic; dr Justen Rudolph of Intermountain Healthcare; dr Randy Thompson, Billings Clinic’s chief health analytics officer; dr Eric Arzubi, Frontier Psychiatry; Lenette Kosovich, CEO of the Rimrock Foundation; and Aubrey Peterschick, CEO of Advanced Care Hospital.

Other planned improvements to BSCC include:

  • Establish clinical data repository to improve provider access to data for better coordination of care. For example, if a family has been displaced to another city due to wildfire, or adults are traveling abroad for work, providers have access to their electronic health record.
  • A patient event alert notification to improve provider care intervention. Notifications are generated when a patient experiences an important event such as a hospital admission, discharge, or emergency room visit. Members of the patient’s care team can access these notifications, allowing them to take proactive, timely and cost-effective action when these events occur.
  • Implement a quality measurement program to improve reporting of vendor quality metrics. Analytics fill in gaps and provide useful insights into patterns, markers and other information relevant to overall delivery of quality patient care. It also provides important feedback for providers, plans, government agencies, and others who have invested in improving Montana’s universal health care system.
  • Facilitating the sharing of images to improve healthcare outcomes. BSCC will be able to facilitate the delivery of diagnostic images along with the provider’s interpretation report, allowing collaborating members of a patient’s medical team or those responding to an emergency to have access to their historical diagnostic images.

For more information, see BSCC website.

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