OR: $3 Million in Transformation Funds Directed to IT Project

When coordinated care organizations (CCOs) were first proposed in 2011, many Oregon health providers balked at the idea of not only changing how care was delivered, but having to work together to achieve that goal. But now, providers and organizations that are part of the state’s 16 CCOs appear to be embracing the teamwork and coordination CCOs are meant to foster.

One sign is that CCO leaders made a collective decision earlier this year to not spend all of the $30 million in “transformation funds” allocated by the Oregon Legislature in 2013.

Instead, they decided to give $3 million of the funds back to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). The agency then leveraged the money to secure a federal match of $27 million to create health information technology (IT) and exchange systems that CCOs can use to share patient information, and to support CCOs’ integrated, coordinated care model of care.

Susan Otter, the OHA’s state coordinator of health information technology, explained that CCO leaders “see a real need from health information technology to support new models of care and systems of transformation.”

“The important part about sharing information, from a CCO perspective, is to have meaningful, reliable and rational information on the patient that you’re caring for, and to be able to share that with the different providers that are relevant to the person’s care,” Otter told State of Reform.

The OHA is developing six different health IT services that will be available to CCOs later this year and into early 2015.

One such service will allow all members of a care team or primary care home to access a patient’s health information and care plan, as well as allow different providers to communicate directly with one other. For example, if a patient is being simultaneously treated for asthma and depression, the patient’s physical and mental health providers will be able to see another doctor’s notes about the patient and the patient’s prescriptions.

“Some of it’s pretty foundational,” Otter said.

Among the fallout from Cover Oregon’s botched rollout of its website, there appears to be a new level of public skepticism about large IT projects. Otter said she is confident the CCO IT project won’t suffer a similar fate.

An advisory group made up of CCO leaders is overseeing the work, and the OHA is replicating services already available and used in other states, Otter noted. “We are looking at tried and true services,” she said. “We’re setting our expectations correctly.”