AzHeC Kicks Off 10th Anniversary Year

Published On: January 27, 2017

Arizona Health-e Connection (AzHeC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a plan for several key events and activities throughout 2017.  The celebration will feature several key events and communications that will look back at the first 10 years of the organization and set the stage for the future of Arizona’s non-profit health IT and health information exchange (HIE) organization. Plans include a 10th anniversary celebration with Board members, HIE participants and other invited guests; the 10th annual Summit & Trade Show; a significant upgrade to the AzHeC brand, website and communications materials; and other events throughout the year.

Melissa Kotrys, AzHeC CEO who became the organization’s second employee nine years ago, says that the first ten years were remarkable for all that was accomplished by the Arizona healthcare community and for just how fast it all seems to have occurred. “It seems like such a short time ago we shared office space with the Arizona Medical Association and had only three employees.  In the years since our founding, we’ve seen the rapid adoption and use of electronic health records (EHRs) and most recently the significant growth and expansion of our statewide HIE,” Kotrys said. “There have been many factors that have contributed to the successful growth and expansion of AzHeC, but one overriding factor has been the strong support, leadership and involvement of the community,” Kotrys said.

AzHeC was created in 2007 after then Governor Napolitano created a broad community coalition to develop a roadmap for health information technology development in Arizona. The roadmap was developed as a result was entitled the “Arizona Health-e Connection Roadmap,” and called for the creation of a non-profit, public-private partnership to advance health IT and HIE in the state.  The new non-profit was incorporated in January 2007 and took on the name of the statewide roadmap.

Here are a few key highlights and their results from AzHeC’s first ten years:

  • April 2010 – AzHeC was awarded a $10.8 million grant (later increased to $11.9 million due to an expansion in scope) by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to develop the Arizona Regional Extension Center (REC) to assist Arizona healthcare providers in adopting EHRs and achieving Meaningful Use.

Result:  AzHeC, through the REC, assisted more than 3,200 providers statewide and helped to move the rate of EHR adoption to more than 85% statewide. In addition, AzHeC assisted providers and critical access hospitals participating in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Program that has brought more than $650 million to Arizona providers and hospitals.

  • April 2011 – AzHeC helped to lead a community collaboration in support of the passage of HB 2620 by the Arizona Legislature that removes barrier to HIE and creates regulations for health information organizations (HIOs) in the state.

Result: AzHeC today operates Arizona’s only statewide HIO and has developed and supports implementation of the patient rights process that is now in operation in hospitals and provider practices throughout the state. Providing patients a Notice of Health Information Practices has become a routine part of the intake or admission of patients statewide.

  • February 2014 – AzHeC and Health Information Network of Arizona (HINAz) announced formal affiliation of the two organizations, forming one organization for providers to come to for all of their HIT/HIE needs. Three months later, AzHeC sent out a request for proposal for a new technology platform for the statewide HIE and went live with the new platform in April 2015.  AzHeC and HINAz completed their transition to be one organization with a formal merger in January 2016.

Result: The new technology began to spur growth in the HIE, and a decision by the AzHeC Board to eliminate participation fees for community providers in October 2015 put HIE growth in overdrive. Participation in the statewide HIE grew from 45 participants in September 2015 to 262 participants today. In addition, the statewide HIE now contains clinical information on over 7 million patients and is processing more than 100 million transactions annually.

  • October 2015 – In collaboration with Mercy Care Plan and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, AzHeC was awarded a grant with potential of $14.6 million over four years and was selected to be one of 29 practice transformation networks (PTNs) nationally as part of the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPi) under CMS. The collaboration launched the Practice Innovation Institute (Pi Institute) which began to enroll and transform Arizona practices to be successful in value-based healthcare.

Result: The Pi Institute successfully recruited 2,500 Arizona clinicians and is assisting clinicians through five phases of practice transformation. The transformation process begins with an assessment of each practice that identifies the status of transformation phase of each practice and develops a business plan for achieving transformation. The program also successfully provides population health analysis to support improved outcomes. Through four years of practice transformation, the Pi Institute projects savings over $81.5 million through value-based healthcare. The Pi Institute aims to create a practice transformation model that can be extended to all Arizona clinicians.

  • February 2016 – The AzHeC Board approved a statewide strategy for integrating physical and behavioral health information in one HIE. Two months later, in collaboration with Arizona’s three regional behavioral health authorities (RBHAs), AzHeC launched the implementation of the plan to integrate physical and behavioral health into the HIE.

Result: AzHeC’s statewide HIE successfully integrated both physical and behavioral health providers in one statewide HIE. Today there are 69 behavioral health providers participating with the statewide HIE, including most of the major behavioral health organizations statewide. In addition, AzHeC has conducted a major revision of its patient notification materials to include consent to access substance abuse treatment information. Now the Patient Rights Process includes both the patient notification process (Arizona law) and consent to access information on substance abuse treatment (Federal law).

To learn more about the AzHeC and its 10-year history click here.