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Local Nonprofit HIE Files Protest Against Oklahoma Statewide HIE

MyHealth Access Network is filing a protest against the new Oklahoma statewide health information exchange (HIE) after it tapped a global health IT vendor for its infrastructure.

A dispute over the bidding process for health IT vendors supporting an Oklahoma health information exchange has resulted in considerable debate, according to Tulsa World.

Following a 13-month process, the Oklahoma State Health Information Exchange announced in December it officially contracted with Orion Health for health IT support. However, a local nonprofit HIE, MyHealth Access Network, bid roughly $30 million less than the health IT vendor and it has since filed a protest against the statewide HIE, the paper reported.

Leaders at MyHealth Access Network said the decision to partner with the vendor could negatively impact healthcare across the state. The nonprofit recently set its bid to $19.9 million.

According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Orion Health signed a one-year deal with nine optional annual renewals, which could cost up to $49.8 million. State leaders expect federal dollars to cover 90 percent of the implementation costs. The state will cover the final 10 percent.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) penned a letter to Oklahoma state officials about the state tapping the vendor over the “quite impressive” and “exemplar” Tulsa-based HIE that’s been around for over a decade. The choice will ultimately dissolve the nonprofit HIE and force the statewide HIE to start from scratch.

“As we learned more about the Oklahoma HealthCare Authority’s new health information exchange strategy we grew concerned that its apparent effect would be to shut down MyHealth’s extraordinary work (through a state required use mandate) and start from scratch to build a new state-run HIE,” wrote Donald Rucker, MD, national coordinator for health information technology. “We see the non-profit HIEs such as MyHealth as a central strategy for more accountable healthcare.”

Furthermore, 13 major healthcare and businesses across the state, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Medical Association, presented their disapproval by writing a letter to state officials this week.

The letter asked officials to “reconsider their current course and work to support Oklahoma’s successful statewide HIE, MyHealth.”

“If this change does occur, it will diminish the existing private sector HIE success, incur significant and unnecessary costs to taxpayers, and negatively impact the state’s HIE infrastructure, which could pose significant health and safety risks to patients,” according to the letter obtained by Tulsa World.

Leaders at MyHealth said the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) did not consider its revised bid of $19.9 million. The nonprofit initially set its bid at $106.6 million, lowered the price to $41.7 million, and then lowered its bid to the final offer of $19.9 million.  

However, two months after the nonprofit’s final offer, OHCA awarded the contract to Orion Health.

MyHealth claimed it was penalized for establishing fewer connections and transactions than Orion Health, even though the nonprofit primarily operates in Oklahoma.

Furthermore, leaders at MyHealth said it has established relationships within the state that Orion Health cannot replicate.

Rucker acknowledged MyHealth’s recent work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In many ways MyHealth is an exemplar in the United States of using information for the public good,” Rucker wrote. “We recently highlighted MyHealth’s critical work to analyze key parts of COVID pathology and transmission in live demos to the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of the U.S. Asst. Secretary of Health charged with COVID testing, and the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

The nonprofit wants OHCA to rescind the contract with Orion Health and award the contract to MyHealth, or the bidding process reopened.

From the HIE’s point of view, the state does not want to lose millions of dollars in federal funding. As noted, it is expected to receive a 90 percent match to state funds and it could reduce to 75 percent of 50 percent if these funds aren’t secured by September.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services has until January 26 to decide on the appeal.

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