Anthem, Blue Shield Announce Development of Health Data Exchange
Two of California's largest health insurers -- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California -- are partnering to create one of the largest health information exchanges in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports.
Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich said the two health insurers decided to launch the exchange, called Cal Index, because "no one else could bring that level of scale, that level of financing and that level of integration" to such a project.
Details of Health Data Exchange
The two companies are investing a total of $80 million to develop the not-for-profit database, which is expected to go live in November (Beck/Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 8/5).
Ultimately, the insurers hope Cal Index will be supported by subscriptions paid by participating health care providers, the Los Angeles Times reports (Logan/Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 8/4).
When it launches, the data exchange will include the medical records of about nine million health plan members. The records will include data on:
- Lab tests;
- Physician and hospital visits; and
Health plan members will be notified of this project and can opt out.
The insurers expect hospitals, physicians and other insurers in the state eventually to contribute data to the system.
Initially, patients will not be able to access their own data on the system, but Anthem and Blue Cross said that function will be added later (Wall Street Journal, 8/5).
World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon said that some individuals -- such as those who have rare medical conditions or have experienced domestic abuse -- will be especially concerned about keeping their data private.
Dixon noted, "[HIEs] have the potential for good," but "[t]here are a whole lot of people with a lot of concerns, and most don't know how to exercise their rights. It's not easy" (Los Angeles Times, 8/4).
Anthem and Blue Cross officials said that Cal Index will comply with state and federal privacy regulations, and will use passwords and other encryption methods to protect data.
Meanwhile, the health data exchange also could face challenges obtaining funding to stay in operation. According to the Journal, dozens of similar databases have shut down or consolidated "amid funding and logistical woes" (Wall Street Journal, 8/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.