HIE Connection: Improving Care for Western Colorado Veterans

As connectivity to the Quality Health Network (QHN) Health Information Exchange (HIE) has grown, now with more than 90 percent of the area’s providers and greater than 80 percent of the healthcare organizations connected, the number of patients represented in the HIE has grown dramatically. This adds to the value and volume of historical clinical information accessible in QHN’s data repository (Patient Summary Record). Currently QHN has more than 20 million clinical results in the repository, making it an indispensable resource to support providers’ access to comprehensive data for improved care and improved care coordination.   

The Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) recognized the value of this data repository resource. In October of 2014, the VAMC began to provide access for more than 100 of their providers and care team members to QHN’s systems.  This access to data will impact the care of approximately 40,000 VA patients across Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. In the past 8 months the VAMC providers have made 17,366 server requests for patient data from the QHN system!

HIE Supports Care Coordination for Veterans in Western Colorado

Western Colorado is a large rural expanse and geologically challenging area encompassing more than 40,000 square miles (an area as large as the entire northeastern USA).  The great travel distances can make access to VA facilities challenging for veterans. Consequently veterans must seek care from their community’s private hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers. This makes it difficult for the providers at VAMC to coordinate veterans’ care, something critical to improving quality and reducing costs. 

The vast majority of providers in Western Colorado are connected to QHN, providing them access to the extensive patient data repository to share critical health information when it’s needed for care, regardless of where the patient is treated. Previous to October 2014, when veterans were seen at the local VA facilities, the information in the QHN data repository was not accessible to VAMC providers. This meant that they were often unaware of services, diagnostic testing and physician consults their patients received outside the VA system.

Improving the Quality of Care for Veterans

“The VA Medical Center in Grand Junction is extremely happy to participate with QHN”, says Beth Roten, RN, MSN, VAMC Education and Development Program Manager. “We care for patients who come from many communities across the western slope of Colorado and they are frequently seen by multiple providers. The QHN System allows those providers with access to obtain critical lab, radiology data and physician notes concerning our patients, no matter where the tests or imaging were performed, and to do so in real-time. This means the VAMC staff no longer needs to solely depend on phone calls, leaving messages or sending faxed releases to multiple facilities and providers to obtain this information. We believe access to the QHN data repository will definitely help us improve our ability to care for our patients.” 

“I have used QHN quite a bit.  It is easy to access, is quick to bring up the information. Also, some of the RN’s have access which has also been very helpful. When I have requested patient records, the nurse can research it on QHN for me,” said Dr. Kathleen Ono, Family Medicine provider at the VAMC Primary Care Clinic. “This I think really improves the care of our patients.  The providers in Primary Care have been hoping for this access for many years and we are pleased that it has finally come to fruition.”