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Connecting for a Healthy Community

Healthconnect Update: April 2014

Greater Houston Healthconnect (Healthconnect), the organization that is creating a network for shared electronic health records (EHRs) across the community’s healthcare providers, is finally reaching that tipping point of achieving critical mass. The process has taken several years, but when enough people and providers are enrolled and participating, the area-wide system will prove highly efficient and effective.

Three local health centers have stepped up as “thought leaders” to help Healthconnect get there—via a project called "Connecting for a Healthy Community." With support from the Community Clinic Funders' Collaborative (CCFC), the project was designed to provide the area’s federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) with resources for planning and management of the electronic connectivity process.

Legacy Community Health Center, Good Neighbor Healthcare Center, and Spring Branch Community Health Center were the first health centers to commit to the EHR process. This commitment is crucial because the FQHCs are among the largest safety-net providers of health care in Harris County, which serves the country’s largest population of underinsured and uninsured.

Legacy, from the start, consistently served as the model for using EHRs in large clinics. Today, it is live in the health information network, helping to supply over 15,000 records for “opted-in” patients. Soon, it will provide data that helps measure cost savings across this patient population. Good Neighbor and Spring Branch are in the process of implementing the interface with EClinical Works. They are gathering patient authorization to share data, and continually educate their patients on the value of having their records available for electronic exchange.

Safety-net providers see great financial benefit from electronic access to patient histories, enabling them to improve referral patterns and treatment processes (for example, not duplicating a lab or imaging test when limited funds are available). With healthcare delivery for the indigent population under mounting pressure to improve outcomes in a fragmented system, the ability to track patients and measure outcomes is crucial as patients move from provider to provider.

Although they are not specifically funded through this project, other area community clinics are also participating in the Healthconnect network with the same objectives of better coordination of care and limited resources. AccessHealth, Central Care Community Health Center, Houston Area Community Centers, Healthcare for the Homeless and Vencino Health Centers all play a vital role in the connectivity of the safety net in Harris County and the region.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide a virtual space and a public forum, where service providers can interact, share best-practices, and learn through collaboration. Through their early adoption, the FQHCs have shown leadership in supporting the collaborative effort—and proving how well it works. Working together, they are laying the foundation of a network that promises to serve virtually everyone in our community.