The Children’s Care AllianceTM Announces Launch of “Virtual Health VillageTM”

The New Pediatric Health Information Exchange is Designed to Improve the Healthcare of Children in the Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley, Pa. (January 28, 2013)….The Children’s Care AllianceTM announces creation of its Virtual Health VillageTM that will allow seamless exchange of student electronic health records between different hospital emergency rooms, clinics, physician offices and school districts in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.  The rapid exchange of information between partner organizations will assure more complete, up-to-date information is available to healthcare providers, including school nurses, when a child is treated in an emergency room, clinic or doctor’s office or when the student visits the school health room. The pediatric health information exchange (HIE) will create more complete health records, while rapid access to a student’s health information will save time, eliminate duplicate tests and procedures and greatly improve initial and follow-up care.

The Children’s Care Alliance (CCA) governance body currently comprises three separate hospital systems –Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Network, Lehigh Valley Health Network and Sacred Heart Health System and two school districts, Bethlehem Area and Allentown, with a combined student population of over 32,000. The HIE represents a first-of-its-kind collaboration between healthcare organizations and the education community that share a common goal – improving the healthcare of children in the region.

The innovative project will assure better care of chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes and will boost immunization rates. The Children’s Care Alliance anticipates greater patient and provider satisfaction and lower heath care costs by reducing duplicate tests and procedures. In addition to cutting student absence from school, parents and regional employers will benefit from fewer missed workdays.

“I am really pleased by this collaborative effort on the part of hospitals, doctors and school districts to improve the continuity of care of our children,” states Thomas Coyle, President of the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Health Care. “This is something employers can really get behind. Not only will it cut the time parents miss from work, but potentially it will reduce employer healthcare costs by eliminating duplicate tests and procedures.”

While full implementation of the project is expected to cost about $2.3 million, initial phases addressing governance, legal, security and privacy issues as well as infrastructure, hardware, software and training are being funded by grants – $300,000 from the Harry C. Trexler Trust, and $600,000 from the Kresge Foundation. In addition to the grant funding, all three hospital systems and both school districts are providing in-kind services to move the project forward.

A big plus for the school districts is that participation in the project is at no cost to them. Grant monies have been used to purchase approximately fifty iPads for the school nurses in both Allentown and Bethlehem Area school districts.

“At this point we are teaching the school nurses how to use the iPads,” states Kathy Halkins, Department Chair for District Nurses in the Bethlehem Area School District. “I just spent the day with one of our nurses measuring, weighing, and checking the vision and hearing of our high school students. After screening only two classes she had it mastered. The best part was, when we were done, we were done. We no longer had to pull each student’s file, handwrite the data, enter it into the computer and re-file the paper records. The computer savvy students even helped her out with the iPad, building a better connection between the students and the nurse.”

Halkins also has downloaded other applications to her iPad such as an animated instructional program for children on brushing and flossing teeth. “While most high school students already know how to brush and floss correctly, this is great for our lower grades, especially our underserved students. It also helps to foster relationships between the nursing staff and students.” With completion of training on the iPads, the school nurses are converting student health records into an electronic format so that they can be shared within the school districts and ultimately with hospitals and care providers within the Virtual Health Village.

“We’ve achieved another milestone and have just signed a contract with Alere Wellogic as the CCA HIE technology vendor,” states Michael Cirba, CIO, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Network and the newly-elected CCA steering committee chairperson.

“Work now is underway to create the health information exchange capabilities. Later phases of the project will seek to expand the number of participating school districts as well as hospitals and physician groups.”