Rush Health, a clinically integrated health network in the Chicago area, has decided to launch its own private health information exchange  to enable its members to share patient records more efficiently.

The HIE, announced last month, will operate as a central hub, enabling stakeholders to use their own electronic health record  systems to exchange information and access patient information.  “In our network, the different EHRs need to talk to each other. We want to do it in more real time for payors,” says Brent Estes, senior vice president, business and network development of Rush University Medical Center and president and CEO of Rush Health. 

Rush opted to establish its own HIE in large part because the Chicago area currently does not have a community HIE option.  A public HIE collapsed several years ago, Estes says.

The HIE will initially connect Rush Health’s members. Estes says that connecting with others, such as post-acute care providers, is “on the radar.” 

“It’s part of the service to our members. It will go beyond data sharing. We will develop to provide alerting and surveillance on patient populations and build out care management,” he says.

Pursuant to state law, patients will have the opportunity to opt out of the data sharing component of the HIE. Rush will continue to aggregate the data of all patients but will not share the information of patients who choose not to participate, explains Estes. Rush Health will be using InterSystems HealthShare interoperability platform to implement its HIE.

Other health systems have created their own private, enterprise HIEs to fill in the gap where public HIEs don’t exist or to meet their own strategic goals.  The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT had issued grants to 56 public entities to operate HIEs, but several of them have struggled with financial, patient privacy and other issues.

Rush Health — which includes four hospitals, more than 1,100 physician members and 300 non-physician network clinicians — also is a leader in contracting directly with employers to provide care, and has done so with companies such as United.

Its HIE is slated to go live at the end of January. “We’re a pioneer locally. We’re ahead of the curve here,” Estes says.