Cal eConnect 'Not Able To Move Fast Enough'

by David Gorn

TOPIC ALERT:

Cal eConnect, an important part of the state's ambitious health information exchange effort, is no longer the same independent entity it was when it was born two years ago. The organization's efforts to make electronic health records ubiquitous in California will continue, officials said, but under a different organizational umbrella.

At a meeting last week, the 22-member board rescinded its cooperative grant agreement with the state.

On Wednesday, state officials announced that Cal eConnect will now be part of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC-Davis. Officials said the same work will continue in a new administrative structure. 

In a written statement, Pamela Lane, the deputy secretary of California's health information exchange, said Cal eConnect has been instrumental in getting the state's HIE program off the ground over the last two years.

"Given the administrative requirements and short timeframe remaining for the agreement, Cal eConnect determined in their May 11 board meeting that the next phase of implementation would be best managed by an organization with capacity to continue implementing the HIE programs," Lane wrote. "All programs are on track and moving forward as planned."

Leadership at Cal eConnect has been a source of frustration for board members. Cal eConnect's first CEO, Carladenise Edwards, resigned after 14 months on the job. After a long search, Cal eConnect announced in March that it had found a replacement: Ted Kremer, who ran a regional health information exchange in Rochester, N.Y. But Kremer changed his mind and about two weeks after the appointment announced he was withdrawing.

According to a joint release from California HHS and Cal eConnect, board members were frustrated with the pace of its progress:

"The Cal eConnect Board determined that as a start up with a large board, it was not able to move fast enough to implement approved programs," the release stated. "It recommended that in the best interest of the state an organization with more experience be available to continue implementation of HIE programs."

Cal eConnect was formed in 2010 to oversee the state's participation in the federal government's campaign to move the country's health care system from a paper-based industry to one reliant on electronic health records.

Starting with a $38.8 million grant from CHHS, the private organization built to state specifications was charged with developing a statewide system for hospitals, clinics, physicians and other health care providers to communicate and share information electronically. Cal eConnect was expected to channel as much as $3 billion -- the biggest state allotment of federal stimulus for health IT -- into California over the next decade.

Bobby Gladd
So, how much taxpayer money has Cal eConnect spent across the past 2 years? To what effect?

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