Michigan Health Information Shared Services and Great Lakes Health Connect on Friday announced they would combine resources into a $28 million organization with 169 employees and 80 interns that could become one of nation’s largest and most effective health information networks.
The nonprofit MiHIN and GLHC have signed a term sheet agreement for the proposed integration with the goal of combining operations by end of 2019, officials said in a telephone news conference with reporters. Full integration will take six months, they said.
A health information network is designed to help make it easier for hospitals, physicians and other health care companies exchange electronic patient data through secure online connections. Data includes hospital admissions, discharge and transfer information. By more closely coordinating patient care, tracking chronic conditions and reducing duplication, providers can lower costs and boost quality, experts say.
Nationally there are more than 234 health information exchanges, but only a small percentage receive sufficient revenue to cover expenses. Eventually, state or regional exchanges are expected to interconnect to form a national health information exchange. Information-technology challenges and different operating systems have slowed development.
“This strategic integration stays true to both organizations’ missions to continuously improve health care quality, efficiency and patient safety by promoting secure, electronic exchange of health information with the best available technology,” Tim Pletcher, MiHINs executive director, said in a statement.
“Both of our organizations have helped establish Michigan as a national leader in interoperability, and now we have the opportunity to work together on future innovations in this field,” he said.
Doug Dietzman, CEO of Great Lakes Health Connect, said Great Lakes and other health information network organizations have spent the last decade trying to make interoperability of health care data work for members. He said the merger will allow both organizations to work together to expand the services they offer.
Pletcher said examples include increasing the number of advanced directives the merged organization can share with members, creating a larger provider and health care directory, expanded patient records and referral management services.
“We have watched each organization succeed on its own, but there comes a time when you have to reflect and examine why we’re working independently on the same mission. We asked ourselves, ‘Would we be stronger together?’ The answer was undoubtedly, ‘yes,’ ” Dietzman said in a statement.
Great Lakes, a Grand Rapids-based organization that was formed in a 2014 merger with Michigan Health Connect, one of four health information networks in Michigan, includes 129 hospitals, accounting for 80 percent of the state’s total licensed beds, along with 20,000 physicians, 3,000 clinics and offices. Its 2019 revenue was a little less than $8 million.