Governor Gianforte, DPHHS Announce Major Investment in Montana’s Health Information Exchange

Governor's Office
  • May 20 2022

BILLINGS, Mont. – Together with Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Adam Meier and Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC) Chief Executive Officer Ben Tyrrell, Governor Greg Gianforte today announced a $20 million investment in the state’s health information exchange (HIE).

“This critical investment in Montana’s health care IT ecosystem will support ongoing efforts to improve the overall experience for patients and clinicians across the state, while saving lives, creating efficiencies, and saving taxpayer dollars,” Gov. Gianforte said. “The ability to have quick and secure access to medical records – regardless of location – is vital, especially in emergency situations when time is of the essence.”

Health Information Exchange

Gov. Gianforte, Billings Clinic CEO Scott Ellner, and Ben Tyrrell of BSCC discuss Montana’s investment in the state’s HIE

BSCC is Montana’s state-designated HIE, a platform that allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically – improving the speed, quality, safety, and cost of patient care.

Currently over 75 medical provider organizations and more than half of Montana hospital systems are signed on as partners with Big Sky Care Connect. These organizations encompass more than 350 provider locations throughout the state.

“BSCC is committed to serving as Montana’s HIE, and excited for the opportunity to move this project forward in the years ahead,” Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell said DPHHS connected its Medicaid claims system in November 2021. BSCC is working to add other health insurance organizations and other payors. BSCC is also working with more than 40 additional providers to connect to the HIE.

Tyrrell said he’s hopeful more providers will enroll now that this contract is in place. “This investment should reassure providers that Montana is committed to providing a quality HIE well into the future,” he said.

Meier said the bottom line is increasing efficiencies. “No matter where an individual is seeking treatment in Montana, it’s more efficient if providers can access patient health information at the point of care,” he said. “Once fully implemented, this platform will bring together every health care community across the state, and critical patient information will follow the patient when and where it is needed most.”

Meier acknowledges that, while there’s more work to do, access to a comprehensive patient medical record saves valuable time, which providers otherwise would spend searching for and retrieving a patient’s information, and gives providers more time with a patient.

Most of the funding will be allocated to continued design, development, and implementation of the current system, including work to build out the current technology, while also adding new participants and implementing new services. The development and implementation phase will continue through 2023. Due to support from DPHHS, the project was able to leverage $15 million in federal funds. Other funding sources include over $4 million in private contributions and $800,000 in state funds.

The announcement also included a roundtable discussion with several Billings public health leaders, including Dr. Steven Arbogast, a neurologist with Billings Clinic; Dr. Justen Rudolph of Intermountain Healthcare; Dr. Randy Thompson, chief health analytics officer at Billings Clinic; Dr. Eric Arzubi, Frontier Psychiatry; Lenette Kosovich, CEO of Rimrock Foundation; and Aubrey Peterschick, CEO of Advanced Care Hospital.

Other planned improvements to BSCC include:

  • Establishing a clinical data repository to improve provider data access for better care coordination. For example, if a family has been displaced to a different town due to a wildfire or adults are traveling out-of-state for work, providers will have access to their electronic health record.
  • A patient event alerting notification to improve provider care intervention. Notifications are generated when a patient experiences a significant event such as a hospital admission, discharge, or visit to the Emergency Room. Members of the patient’s care team can access these notifications so that proactive, timely, and cost-saving interventions can occur as these events happen.
  • Implementing a quality measurement program to improve provider quality metric reporting. Analytics fill in gaps and expose useful insight into patterns, markers, and other information relevant to the overall delivery of quality patient care. It also provides vital feedback to providers, plans, state agencies, and others invested in improving Montana’s overall health care delivery.
  • Facilitating the exchange of images to improve health care outcomes. BSCC will be able to facilitate the delivery of diagnostic images alongside the providers interpretive report so collaborating members of a patient’s medical team or those responding in an emergency will have access to their historical diagnostic images.

For more information, visit the BSCC website.